Game consoles – Concern to ecology ?

Ubisoft’s announcement on packing games without manuals received mixed response from gamers, personally for me Manuals are required if you are a total noob to gaming and you really do not need a manual to make you learn the controls of a game on a console, it’s not complicated as remembering key combos on a computer keyboard, in many countries across the kind of energy consumed by gaming consoles and the carbon footprint of the overall gaming industry is coming under the spotlight, environmental activists are demanding a serious approach from the gaming industry to mend their ways in time.

Console gaming may not be of much concern in India currently, it is still a matter of concern for European countries and America where most households own a game console. Here’s a simple calculation to the carbon footprint of the console you would be owning:

Xbox 360

We would first calculate the kilowatt per hour data for Xbox 360 (kW.h) taking a base where you could be using the console rougly for 2 hours every day, we would be using this formula:

kW.h = watts * number of hours *  number of days in a month/ 1000

so for Xbox 360 = 176*2*30/1000 = 10.56 kW.h

Annual Carbon Emission: kW.h*12*grams of CO2 per kW.h  / (1000*1000)

(its 800 grams of CO2 pe kW.h for India as per 2008 figure)

so it comes to: 10.56*12*800 = 0.101 tonnes of CO2 in a year


kW.h = 186*2*30/1000 = 11.16 kW.h

Annual Carbon Emission = 0.107 tonnes of CO2 in a year

Nintendo Wii

kW.h = 1.02 kW.h

Annual Carbon Emission =  0.010 tonnes of CO2 in a year

You may want to run a calculation for your home power consumption and the amount of CO2 emission you could be contributing to while you could be savouring the fun of playing MW2, Halo or any other popular game online or on a mission to complete a game in one sitting!

2008 U.S. report by the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that consoles collectively consume an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year, roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego.” With the exception of the Wii, introduction of PS3 slim has helped Sony cut on power consumption however the earlier version of PS3 is still not being phased out from the market, while Xbox 360 has a lot to work on energy consumption front.

it does not just stop at the energy consumption, toxic chemicals like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, and brominated flame retardants(BFRs) are a part of manufacturing process of consoles, game discs, and packaging.

PVC and phthalates are used to make soft plastics like wire casing, and can cause problems in human reproduction.BFRs are known to accumulate in the human body and they can eventually cause abnormal brain development, affecting learning, memory, and behavior.  Greenpeace ran a check on major consoles in 2008 where Nintendo’s Wii emerged clean on PVC and phthalates, while Xbox 360 and PS3 were found to contain high levels of phthalates. Microsoft made a commitment to remove these toxins from its hardware products by 2010, while Sony hasn’t yet set a date by which it will phase out its use of phthalates.

Game case is one major source of carbon emission where positive effort is visible from the game development companies to cut down on CO2 emission on game case manufacturing and packing, a number of Xbox 360 games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 started shipping in a case called the “Eco-Box” since December 2009, waste generated from gaming is a part of the larger e-waste problem our globe is facing as we get surrounded by more of them every year.

United Nations reports some 20 to 50 million tons of total e-waste are generated each year, and, though it’s difficult to track, video-game products are likely a significant contributor. Plus, a high percentage of e-waste we produce is thought to end up in developing countries, countries such as China and India with large informal recycling sectors, it is simply not possible to even estimate the percentage of the hidden flow of e-waste,” a Greenpeace report claims. “Other regions are also under threat of illegal imports of e-waste, such as African countries where donations for refurbishment and reuse are simply a pretext for the dumping of non-repairable devices.”

Scrapyard workers and even children are exposed to the toxic chemicals. In addition, a lot of e-waste goes untreated, releasing toxins into the air and eventually ending up in the soil and water. So while the west might think this problem is exported away, those toxic chickens could conceivably come home to roost one day. Greenpeace criticized Microsoft and Nintendo for their lack of voluntary take-back programs for customers. Sony scored points for reportedly using approximately 17,000 tons of recycled plastics in its products in 2008-10 percent of all plastics it used that year.

As gamers it is our responsibility as well to ensure we are aware of our responsibility towards the planet, as Indians we have very little literacy on disposing e-waste and related recycling programs, i am sure with the gamer generation hooked on to the web we can make an effort to find out ways to be responsible enough to enjoy our gaming and care for the planet too.

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