The latest-generation game consoles are on track to cost American consumers $1 billion annually in utility bills--$400 million of that in standby mode when no one is using them--and devour enough electricity to power all the homes in the nation's fourth-largest city of Houston, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
NRDC's testing and analysis shows the new Microsoft Xbox One is the biggest energy user of the three most popular consoles, largely due to its voice command feature in standby mode, followed by the Sony PlayStation 4 with its inefficient controller charging. Although these consoles have incorporated important energy-saving features, in large part at NRDC's urging, their expanded capabilities result in annual electricity consumption two to three times higher than the most recent models of their predecessors. In comparison, the Nintendo Wii U is an energy sipper.
"Gamers shouldn't be locked into higher electric bills for the lifetime of their consoles just because manufacturers haven't optimized the performance of their products," said Pierre Delforge, NRDC director of high-tech energy efficiency, whose team performed the testing. "This wastes energy and money, and causes unnecessary pollution from power plants.
"But if Microsoft and Sony follow NRDC's recommendations, they could cut the new consoles' electricity use by one-fourth beyond current projections through software and hardware optimizations, saving U.S. consumers $250 million on their annual utility bills and enough energy to power all the households in San Jose, America?s 10th-largest city," he said.
An estimated 110 million game consoles have been sold in the United States since 2005 - almost enough to have one in every home - and they consume several power plants' worth of electricity every year. Once all prior generation consoles are replaced, the new models collectively will use approximately 10 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power all of Houston's homes.
Key findings from NRDC's analysis include:
- The newest consoles gobble more energy in standby mode and when showing videos than playing games, over a year.
- Almost half of the Xbox One's annual energy consumption occurs when no one is using it, but it's listening for users to say "Xbox on" even in the middle of the night or when no one's home.
- If all U.S. Xbox One owners use their consoles for TV watching, it would add $300 million to their yearly energy bills.
- The PS4 and Xbox One use 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than dedicated media players (such as Apple TV or Google Chromecast).