At Xbox, our commitment to our players and the industry is to reduce the impact that gaming has on the environment. With a gaming community of 3.1 billion players worldwide, Microsoft, alongside game creators, can drive positive change. In our discussions and research with game creators, there is growing interest to improve the video games industry's impact on the world and its environment. So, with a little creativity and precision engineering, we can start to make steps toward a more sustainable gaming future – without lowering gameplay fidelity or negatively impacting the gaming experience. Xbox is the first console platform to release dedicated energy consumption and carbon emissions measurement tools designed for (and with) game creators to help understand and reduce gamers' energy bills and lower the carbon footprint and energy consumption posed by the games that they develop.
We have listened to passionate and motivated game creators and designers who have shared that, while the topic of sustainable gaming may feel new and untested, many efforts to reduce energy consumption can result from technical and creative skills where they already excel. For example, many game creators and designers already consider aspects that can reduce energy consumption during active game use, such as thermal load, frame rate, pixelation, latency, the size of assets they need to upload, or how frequently software updates are released. Many mobile game developers already consider battery life and how hot a device may get in a gamer’s hands if a game hasn’t been optimized for energy efficiency. In addition, game creators also demonstrate deep empathy for what players want and need – to continue playing the best games, while offering innovations in reducing carbon emissions, lowering electricity bills, reducing hardware temperatures, and improving energy efficiency when possible.
Team Xbox listened, and we are now empowering game developers by providing development tools, global energy and emissions data, and title or studio-specific data insights that will connect purpose to innovation .Our case studies show that energy efficiency opportunities in game code do not have to be expensive or time-intensive to identify or solve, and the results can reduce console energy consumption, carbon emissions, and in-home electricity cost for gamers, simultaneously. But most importantly, energy optimisations to achieve these sustainability goals can be entirely imperceptible to the gamer.
The electricity generated across the globe to power electrical sold products, like gaming devices and video games, is sourced from a combination of carbon-intensive fossil fuels and renewable energy. As an example, the energy derived from fossil fuels to power global Xbox console usage accounts for approximately three-quarters of the overall energy and carbon footprint across Xbox’s whole value chain. Within this three-quarter share, approximately half is related to gameplay. Therefore, finding energy efficiency opportunities for gaming activity across all gaming devices, irrespective of manufacturer, offers strong environmental benefits and increases customer satisfaction by helping to lower their energy bills, energy wastage, and carbon footprint.
Did you know ... The average electricity consumption from 10k gamers playing for 20 hours, each on a high performing gaming device, is equivalent to the CO2 sequestered by 11 acres of forests in one year?
We remain entirely committed to ensuring the games on Xbox are the most visually and sonically impressive, with sustainability never being at the expense of gameplay fidelity, however if opportunities arise to imperceptibly lower power consumption, then we would like to explore these solutions together with our developer community.
What do we want to achieve?
Some of the biggest names in the game industry have already committed to act on energy and environmental issues via their video games, and Xbox is passionate to support this growing movement. Gaming content creators can contribute a sizeable part and become influential leaders by investing in more sustainable coding solutions to lower the energy demand and the carbon footprint of titles, all without negatively impacting gameplay fidelity. So, what do we want to achieve in this developer guide?
- Highlight the potential opportunities for energy efficiencies which will lower the energy demand and carbon footprint of our customers
- Provide targeted data for the best areas to begin introducing energy efficiency improvements
- Provide developers with a way to see the baseline energy efficiency, or inefficiency, of their titles on Xbox Series X|S, with a particular focus on the gaming experience
- Provide detailed and actionable reports to demonstrate where inefficiency has been observed
- Partner and collaborate with our game developers and publishers to build a reliable testing process
Introducing the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit
Our goal is to empower creators and developers by providing information and tools to better understand the energy and emissions intensity of their games, and to introduce energy efficiency strategies into game development. The Xbox Developer Sustainability Toolkit includes analytical and visual systems, measurement tools, and resources to help creators make informed decisions about energy consumption and carbon emissions, associated with their game designs. The toolkit helps developers to leverage precision engineering feedback to help identify and reduce energy consumption in scenarios when a player doesn’t need it, thus ensuring the player experience is not negatively impacted.
Game Developer Kit (GDK) and Power Monitor tools. Through these tools, game creators can view real-time energy consumption feedback down to the nearest millisecond. This can enable game creators to establish their baseline, measure GPU usage with granularity, and directly pinpoint energy inefficiencies with which they can experiment. This also comes with an API designed to be used by games that have their own profiling needs. Lastly, this can also be paired with the Xbox Series X Devkit’s front panel, which has a Power Load % value for quick and easy reference during game development.
Certification reports. With support from the Xbox Sustainability and Certification teams, game creators can identify game energy consumption averages specific to most common in-game areas, like static menus and loading screens. This can help game creators understand how their own games compare relative to the industry average – and use this information to create their own success metrics.
Power consumption dashboards. With game telemetry in place, these dashboards can offer any studio a bird’s eye view of the global average of how much energy their games are using relative to the platform average. Specifically, they show the carbon footprint and total energy used by a game and its studio over time.
Guidance, best practices, and case studies via the pilot program and Xbox Game Dev Docs. The path to a more sustainable gaming industry requires knowledge sharing and community. As game creators across Xbox Game Studios, Xbox Game Studios Publishing, and the broader Xbox ecosystem refine experimentation methods, identify best practices, and co-develop new tools via our pilot program, their learnings and stories will be published in Xbox Game Developer Docs.
Early use cases from game creators
At Xbox, we believe that to reduce gaming’s impact on the environment, we must work in collaboration with our fans, game creators, and the industry. We created the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit in collaboration with studio partners via a small pilot program that allowed us to co-develop tooling requirements, test, assess value for developers, and create best practices for experimentation. By reading the Case Studies pages on this site, you will learn about how the toolkit supported their efforts to build more sustainable games.
You can also learn more from like-minded developers and publishers as part of the United Nations Playing for the Planet Alliance and the IGDA Climate Special Interest Group, which contain vocal advocates for more environmentally conscious activations that map in-game behaviour to real-world environmental projects.
Did you know ... The global carbon emissions produced as a by-product from the electricity powering the 20th most played title on Xbox last year is equivalent to ~3500 metric tonnes CO2e, which is equivalent to greenhouse gas emissions from ~8.5 million miles driven by an average gasoline-powered passenger vehicle.
Want to find out more?
If you are interested in learning more, or are excited to take on a more active role in helping us expand on our developer tools, methods, and best practices, please reach out to XboxSustainability@Microsoft.com, and Cc your Microsoft point of contact, where we would be delighted to share more details. Please also continue reading our documentation both here on Xbox Game Dev Docs and in the Game Developer Kit.