In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been ordered to shelter in their homes, causing them to seek other forms of entertainment. For many, this entertainment has come in the form of video games. However, with the increase in business from gaming companies comes some dangerous environmental implications in the form of e-waste. Moreover, with the release of futuristic Next-Gen hardware (highlighted by the release of Sony’s Playstation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X) that promise an unparalleled gaming experience with updated hardware, comes an even more magnified risk of environmental consequences.
Though gaming companies have made significant moves to reduce e-waste by offering free recycling and reducing their carbon footprint through manufacturing in environmentally-friendly manners, there seems to be an unrealized effect as a result of a sharp increase in gaming. According to WIRED, US gaming platforms “represent 34 terawatt-hours in energy usage, associated with carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to over 5 million cars.” Additionally, with the development of gaming ecosystems, specifically in the lines of the product vision of Microsoft, gaming hardware purchases seem to be on the rise – and could be increasingly common in US households.
The hardware that comes with these new Next-Gen consoles come with a large consumer upgrade market. With the large volume, the consoles – which consist of chips, circuit boards, and plastic – will have a large impact on the e-waste that will eventually end up in a landfill. The chips in the next-gen consoles will be smaller but will require much more energy. Additionally, with standard shipping and chemical treatments, the energy used by the consoles will be tremendous, ultimately leading to a large carbon footprint.
Though these consoles appear to have negative implications for the environment, it seems that the companies behind the product are committed to environmental sustainability. Both Microsoft and Sony have set goals to be carbon neutral and carbon negative, respectively, in the near future. This is in hopes of advancements of technology that will enable such outcomes, though there doesn’t seem to be a current solution to the problem.
Ultimately, the production and usage of next-gen consoles for the average consumer will not have a great bearing on the environment. However, like anything, these additions add up. Though as consumers, we are at the mercy of manufacturers, only time will tell whether manufacturers will be able to become carbon neutral and eliminate their impact on the environment in a way that benefits our planet and the consumer.