Cloud services like Luna, Stadia, and xCloud could do more harm to the environment than buying games in traditional physical or digital format.
An academic study funded by PlayStation has found that playing cloud gaming titles on services like Amazon Luna and Google Stadia can be more harmful to the environment than regular console games. Put on as part of the United Nations’ Playing for the Planet Alliance, the study looks at the carbon emissions generated from various types of gaming, including downloading a digital game, streaming from a cloud service, and more. The study also uses going to the movies as a comparison point, which leaves an exponentially higher carbon footprint due to the travel necessary in the activity.
The recently announced Luna is just one of several gaming services moving to cloud streaming for distribution. It will feature a wide variety of games, including a channel devoted entirely to publisher Ubisoft, and feature Twitch integration. It could also serve as a premium distribution platform for Amazon Game Studios releases.
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While the study showcases several interesting facts about the PlayStation family of consoles, GamesIndustry.biz‘s look into the findings discovered that cloud gaming services are potentially more harmful to the environment than the digital games that are more prevalent at the moment. Gaming on a PlayStation digitally will emit 0.047kg of CO2 per hour while using a disc emits 0.055kg in the same timeframe. Cloud gaming emits an estimated 0.149kg of CO2 per hour, likely due to two pieces of energy-hungry hardware running to play a single game. These results can vary with the length of each game, with titles clocking in under eight hours emitting less CO2 per hour than other options on console.
For Sony’s part, the company reports that it’s avoided an estimated 17.5 million tons of carbon emissions over the lifespan of the PlayStation 4. The platform holder claims that this was accomplished via the system’s energy-efficient power supply, rest modes, and chip architecture. Sony also boast that the game suspending features of the upcoming PlayStation 5 will be 72 percent less harmful than similar features on the PlayStation 4. As part of the release of the study, Sony also produced a virtual reality wraparound video in Dreams that’s meant to teach children about the dangers of global warming.
With Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others positioning cloud gaming as the next major arms race in video games, it’s unfortunate to see that the convenience of their services comes at a cost. There are many other global factors that contribute more to the overall issue of climate change, but it’s worth questioning whether something can be done regarding the massive server farms required to run services such as these.
One thing is clear – the ongoing rollouts of Google Stadia, Amazon’s Luna, and Microsoft’s Project xCloud are not going to be impeded by these stats. While the numbers add up in the long run, that has rarely stopped companies as big as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft from getting what they want. With gaming growing exponentially in 2020, the industry will likely speed up efforts rather than stop and consider how to do things more efficiently. All that just to play Doom on a smartphone.
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