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Power Entertainment Games

NRDC Rates Energy Efficiency of Video Game Consoles 260

Posted by timothy
from the real-costs-for-illusory-worlds dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Today, more than 40 percent of all homes in the United States contain at least one video game console. Recognizing that all that gaming could add up to serious demand for electricity, NRDC and Ecos Consulting performed the first ever comprehensive study on the energy use of video game consoles and found that they consumed an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year — roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego. Through the incorporation of more user-friendly power management features, we could save approximately 11 billion kWh of electricity per year, cut our nation's electricity bill by more than $1 billion per year, and avoid emissions of more than 7 million tons of CO2 each year. In this November 2008 issue paper, NRDC provides recommendations for users, video game console manufacturers, component suppliers and the software companies that design games for improving the efficiency of video game consoles already in homes as well as future generations of machines yet to hit the shelves." The full report is freely downloadable as a PDF.
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NRDC Rates Energy Efficiency of Video Game Consoles

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  • Yeah, right... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:02PM (#25821615) Homepage Journal

    Through the incorporation of more user-friendly power management features

    On consoles, it's called the "power button".

    Suggesting console manufacturers implement power-saving features is like asking Ferrari or Hummer to make their vehicles as efficient as a Corolla or Civic.

    Power-saving measures make sense for PCs and especially for servers because there's a LOT of inertia involved in powering them on and off. Load times are bad enough as far as consoles are concerned -- introducing yet more waiting is a bad idea. I'll work off my potential guilt by riding my bike to the store instead of driving after playing XBox360 or PS3.

  • Insignificant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kmac06 (608921) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:02PM (#25821619)
    $1 billion/300 million = $3.

    Yay.
  • by TiberSeptm (889423) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:05PM (#25821649)
    So does this mean those ps3's sitting around at full CPU utilization for days and days add up to give Folding@Home one of the largest carbon footprints of any non-profit? Of course I'm not being serious with my title, but how's that compare to the energy costs, efficiency, and carbon foot print of an equivalent blue-gene/L supercomputer?
  • Re:Yeah, right... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shikaku (1129753) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:14PM (#25821779)

    Except that the current generation consoles are always on. The console is listening for the remote on by the controller, and the Wii even goes on WiFi by itself with not on.

    The consoles also generate a lot more heat, especially the 360 and PS3, which if it is summer will cause your house to use more AC (although conversely the heat can warm your house in the winter).

    Power usage IS much higher because of consoles these days.

  • Evil power switch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Luyseyal (3154) <swaters.luy@info> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:20PM (#25821883) Homepage

    Yeah, all my electronics are guiltless vampires. I'm mean and put them on the "power off" light switch so they're all OFF when I want them OFF. Sure, it takes awhile for the Uverse box to sync back up on power-on, but the savings is worth it to me.

    -l

  • Re:Yeah, right... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:21PM (#25821887)

    I read an interesting article on the standby issue a while back, can't remember who by. Basically it came down to this -

    Switching off, rather than going to standby saves a tiny bit of power and is a good thing. Howvere, when looking at energy efficiency as a whole it's almost entirely insignificant compared to use of hot water or other modern day conveniences. Can't be bother to turn your devices of standby but want to make the same cut in energy use? Take one less shower every six months. Or run the washing machine one less time, maybe by wearing a pair of trousers for a day longer once in a while.

    If we *really* want to cut energy usage, we need to look at the things people take for granted, not "make sure to unplug your playstation at night".

  • by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:23PM (#25821935) Homepage Journal
    What confuses me is why the PS3 uses more power while idle than active.

    Only one solution to this. Gotta have it doing protein folding 24/7. It's to save the environment.

  • by sexconker (1179573) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:29PM (#25822031)

    You do know that the Wii is a die-shrunk GameCube with more RAM, Wifi, bluetooth, and a SD card slot, right?

  • Re:First Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nursie (632944) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:34PM (#25822141)

    Ah, but the western governments would soon institute a ministry of fun, and that would quickly come to the realisation that it would be best for the children if fun were banned entirely.

  • by TheGeniusIsOut (1282110) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:37PM (#25822181)
    The Wii is not more efficient, it simply does not do as much. If it was as capable of graphics and processing as the PS3 or XB360, it would consume a lot more power.

    That's like trying to compare a single LED flashlight running on a couple of button cell batteries to a dive light using lantern batteries.

    The LED may only draw 20mA at 3V, or 60mW, while the dive light uses 0.5A at 12V, or 6W, 2 orders of magnitude greater, but the LED only puts out 2-3cp, while the dive light does 2-3Kcp, which actually makes the dive light more efficient by an order of magnitude.

    3cp / 60mw = 50cp/W

    3Kcp / 6W = 500cp/W

    I did, however, find it somewhat amusing that the Wii uses less power than the Gamecube.

    What I take issue with, after reading the entire report, is that they give no citation as to where they derived the power cost and CO2 emission numbers from. Obviously, different power production techniques would amount to different emissions and costs, e.g. solar or wind power in a personal or community installation would have a higher initial cost, with virtually no monthly cost and very little CO2 emissions, and those arising mainly from the production of the hardware.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:41PM (#25822243)

    Here's an easy solution.

    MS and Sony (and Nintendo) should make a series of simple alterations to their programming and production line machines, as follows:

    #1 - When you hit the power button, it goes OFF. Not just "low power", and certainly not Sony's PS3 "still burning more energy than a 75W light bulb" mode.

    I recognize this will lose the remote-control ease of "powering up" the device using the Home/Xbox/Power button from the controller. Tough. Get up and walk the fucking five feet to the box to turn it on. I also recognize that this may not be possible with the current already-installed base (though I bet the PS3 could spin down a hell of a lot more than it does).

    But even if you can't do this to the currently-installed base, you can CERTAINLY do this next one:

    #2 - Enough with the damn system clock. If you want to have a clock, have it ping an NTP server somewhere (heck, give the user a choice of which government or private-industry one they want to ping) for the time when it comes up. If it comes up without a clock and the user doesn't bother with the setting, the user obviously doesn't worry enough about it to care. The only thing you use it for anyways is marking a time/datestamp on savegames, which could just as easily be stored as the amount of gameplay time spent in the game rather than time/datestamping. Not only that, but your system clocks suck and have to be regularly reset anyways. Neither the Wii, nor Xbox360, nor PS3 is programmed to be a PVR or anything like that, so they have no reason to have a clock. At all.

    Same thing for so many other devices: there is no reason for my coffee maker, or my toaster [freedomblogging.com], or anything else to know what time it is. None. At all. I am not, I swear to god am NOT, going to put two pieces of toast in the toaster when I leave for work, then call home and enter a six-digit code from my cell phone when I'm 10 minutes away just so I have hot toast waiting after I walk in the door. And even if I did, that function would STILL not require my toaster to know what time it was, only that it had just received a code saying "toast. Now." And when I consider that the amount of energy my toaster expended simply waiting for that command could probably toast a whole fucking loaf, even having it networked in the first place is a waste of energy.

    Added bonus: users could just hit the power switch on their surge protector to REALLY cut everything off if they want to, without having to worry about resetting the clocks later. The one reason I don't do this nowin my living room is that it's annoying enough to have to reset clocks after a 5-minute power outage, I don't want to have to do every time just to play a game. I do, on the other hand, do this for my various kitchen gadgets that have "standby" modes and they've never missed a beat (even found, after much research, a microwave model where I don't have to reset the fucking clock just to cook something).

    We waste far too much power on "standby" modes for everything, and it's getting annoyingly hard to even find a device that truly turns OFF any more.

    Finally, a note to EVERY company that makes products:

    I DO NOT NEED TO HAVE A GLOWING RED LIGHT JUST TO KNOW MY DEVICE IS TURNED OFF.

    I mean seriously, my living room looks like it's fucking christmas even when everything's turned off. I kill the lights and the collection of little red LED's from my TV, stereo system, and vcr/dvd player/game systems is collectively bright enough for me to see my black cat sneaking around to try to run between my legs and trip me while I go upstairs to bed. My various electronic devices stare out at me in the night like a deranged collection of fruit fuckers [rainslick.com].

    If it's on, I expect a status light perhaps. A happy little, not-too-bright green light or a system clock (for an older VCR or Tivo or something) saying "yeah, I'

  • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:41PM (#25822249)

    You do know that the Wii is a die-shrunk GameCube with more RAM, Wifi, bluetooth, and a SD card slot, right?

    Price of tea in China... what's that got to do with it?

  • by llZENll (545605) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @03:48PM (#25822351)

    FTA "Many users do not turn their video game console off. A game console that is left on 24/7 will use approximately 10 times more annual energy than one that is turned off after use. Due to the absence of any studies, we based our calculations on the assumption that 50 percent of users leave their device on when they are finished playing a game or watching a movie."

    Here are my study results, consoles create 100MW of power. (1)

    (1) Many users mod their console to include solar panels and wind turbines. A modded game console will generate approximately 10KW of annual energy. Due to the absence of any studies, we based our calculations on the assumption that 50 percent of users have modded consoles that generate excess power.

  • by FiloEleven (602040) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:08PM (#25822665)

    The Wii is not more efficient, it simply does not do as much.

    Well sure it does. It plays video games.

  • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:08PM (#25822679)

    His point is that the Wii isn't even in the same class as an Xbox 360 or PS3. The Xbox may use ten times as much electricity, but it's also ten times as powerful. I'd even go so far as to say it's ten times as much fun.

    Is this a debate of console power and available titles, or is this a debate over power consumption?

  • by Sabz5150 (1230938) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:16PM (#25822799)

    Why? Because I was pointing out to Fox_1 (who has a low 6 digit UID and should know better) that there is no reason to consider it amazing or impressive, given what we know about the systems.

    Hey, did you know the NES uses a lot less power than a PS3?

    Did you know that elephants are like, way heavier than wombats?

    Sure. Did you know the NES is a bit over twenty years older? Did you know that elephants and wombats don't share an order?

    Did you know the Wii, PS3 and 360 are competitors?

  • by wc_paladin (989918) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:22PM (#25822867)

    I thought I saw some at home depot the other day but I can't seem to find it on their website. They always seem to have more in the store than they list online, so actually going out and checking would be a good idea.

    If you can't find anything, you could just get GFCI outlets and use the "test" button to shut them off.

  • by maxume (22995) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @04:34PM (#25823037)

    It makes more sense to measure things in fun/Watt than it does to measure them in Masturbatory-graphics-number/Watt. That is, measure what they do, not what they are capable of.

  • Re:Yeah, right... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @05:50PM (#25824243)

    If we *really* want to cut energy usage, we need to look at the things people take for granted, not "make sure to unplug your playstation at night".

    I read this article earlier today on ars and knew that it would end up here and evoke the "it's too insignificant to matter" response these discussions always get.

    Yes, for an individual consumer, you won't save a lot of money/energy by shutting down your console. However, this report isn't directed at consumers. It's meant to guide the power-saving decisions that go into designing future consoles. They point out that just adding a "sleep after 6 hour of inactivity" feature turned on by default on all of these consoles, US energy consumption would go down by $1B/year. That's significant.

    Inactivity-timer-induced-shutdown sounds good to me (they just want it to be turned on by default, too; if you have a burning need to keep your PS3 running constantly no matter what, go ahead and switch it back in the options menu). It would also be great to cut the standby power requirements, too. They should easily be able to run a system clock and a remote control sensor for far less than 1 W - I have other devices that do so in my home. That would shave 10-15 W off of a 360 of PS3.

    Also, let's improve our efficiency for things like water heating, home heating, car driving, and anything else where efficiency improvements are possible.

    Every time any sort of power saving discussion comes up on /., a few people say that it's not worth doing [Xn] because [Y] is the real problem. I think that the sum of Xn from n=0 to n=100 is significant. Solving our "energy problem" isn't a job for a magic bullet. We need to be creative and determined across a wide range of activities.

  • by Fox_1 (128616) on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @06:06PM (#25824571)
    I appreciate that the Wii does't have nearly the processing power of the Xbox 360 or PS3, and the report also seems to respect their differences by comparing the Xbox 360 and PS3 extensively without including the Wii.

    Now back to the business: Here we have an lower spec machine that competes and wins over the other two machines in terms of total sales. That's impressive. What's really amazing is while the competitors have increased Power Consumption in tandem with Processor Specs, Nintendo has managed to remain relatively flat on Power Consumption while still increasing Processor Specs (not as much granted) and remaining competitive. Nintendo pretty conclusively earned the power friendly bragging rights this report implies. This large a difference, to me, appears to be by design and I don't mean hardware.

    The simpleness of the Wii itself should not be confused with Nintendo's business. Nintendo has demonstrated an understanding of the gaming industry and gamers themselves that far surpasses it's rivals. The Wii is just an expression of that.

    That's what happens when you have a low UID, after a couple of bubble bursts you look past the shiny lights and fancy hardware.
  • by Omestes (471991) <omestes AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday November 19, 2008 @07:29PM (#25825951) Homepage Journal

    The worst is the current obsession with ultra-bright blue LEDs. My external HDD glows bright enough to actually read by. My HP laptop has thousands of ultra bright blue LEDs too, which flicker madly when its sleeping. My Wii decides to flash in a blinding blue at random intervals (which again, illuminates my bedroom bright enough to make sleep impossible). My other computer has a blue status light that also is bright enough to read by, and worse it flashes rapidly when sleeping.

    ENOUGH WITH THE BLUE LIGHTS! I don't understand the attraction, perhaps it looks futuristic or something, they just annoy me. Especially since they hit the edge of the visible spectrum a bit, and appear to swim (disembodied from their source) out of the corner of my eye.

    I do though, enjoy Apple's sleeping indicator, it is slightly relaxing and subdued.

    I'm sick of arrogant electronics, that want me to pay attention to them at all times. I like to be able to ignore my gadgets. I already payed money for them, why should they care if I spend time with them?

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