Playstation 5 players: The console went on sale in November, but many interested parties have so far received nothing
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Many game fans believe that such performance data is impressive: the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 are significantly faster than their predecessors and can now send video game graphics to televisions in 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second.
But this progress is no coincidence: The 400 to 500 euros expensive new game consoles are enormous energy guzzlers, show initial analyzes.
The power supply units of both devices draw more energy than all their predecessors from the socket, the maximum output has more than doubled in recent years: Sony now powers the Playstation 5 with a 350 watt power supply unit (Playstation 4: 165 watts), which Xbox Series X consumes up to 315 watts (Xbox One: 135 watts).
Of course, these are only the maximum values.
But a practical test by the tech magazine "Cnet" has already shown that the graphics cards, processors and coolers in the new devices are very voracious.
The Playstation 5, for example, has an average power consumption of 197 watts for "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" and 220 watts for "Demon's Souls" according to "Cnet".
The Xbox Series X reaches 209 watts when you insert the shooter "Gears 5".
It's not economical: the consoles use almost twice as much energy as an average 55-inch flat screen.
One game, lots of data
Especially with the online shooter "Fortnite" the energy consumption of the new consoles is extreme, according to the test report.
The Playstation 5 is "the biggest culprit" with an average of 216 watts (Playstation 4: 145 watts), the Xbox Series X lands in second place with 178 watts (Xbox One X: 41 watts).
Meanwhile, a Nintendo Switch consumes an average of 14 watts for "Fortnite".
"A consumer who pays attention to his carbon footprint would certainly look at these numbers and turn away from the ninth-generation consoles," says the text.
With the Xbox One X, a predecessor of the new Xbox Series X, the environmental magazine »Grist« had already stated that the console stood in the way of the manufacturer Microsoft in its attempt to become climate neutral by 2030.
According to the manufacturer, around 150 kilograms of greenhouse gases were generated during the production and transport of an Xbox One X alone.
And just playing with a console adds around 116 kilograms every year, according to that overview.
After eight years the balance is one tonne of CO2.
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Microsoft has not yet published a life cycle assessment for its latest console.
A company spokeswoman told SPIEGEL that “we are continuing to research how we can reduce the impact on the environment of a product during its lifespan - from the concept to the design, production, packaging and the point when the console is in in the hands of our customers and at the end of their lives «.
Rather irrelevant in marketing
It looks similar with the Playstation.
The portal “The Verge” has calculated that a standard Playstation-4 produces around 89 kilograms of CO2 through manufacture and transport alone.
With around 100 million devices sold, that adds up to almost nine million tons - which roughly corresponds to Jamaica's annual greenhouse gas production.
But Sony also takes more time than Microsoft when it comes to environmental goals: the Japanese company wants to become climate neutral by 2050, according to the latest sustainability report (PDF).
What this means in concrete terms for the Playstation 5, Sony did not want to comment on SPIEGEL's request.
Environmental protection is obviously not a top priority at Sony.
In any case, when it comes to marketing the Playstation 5, the subject of energy efficiency hardly plays a role.
Only the improved sleep mode, which only consumes 1.5 instead of 5 watts in the so-called Playstation 4 Pro, was explicitly mentioned by Sony when, like Microsoft, it was involved in the UN climate protection campaign "Playing for the Planet".
What players can do for the environment
Going to sleep mode is one of the few options next-gen gamers can use to help improve energy efficiency.
Noah Horowitz of the environmental protection organization Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) strongly advises against using the so-called instant-on mode of the Xbox Series X.
The idea behind half-sleep mode: players can quickly wake up the console and quickly resume paused tracks.
It is "extremely crucial" that players forego the instant-on mode and instead select the classic energy-saving mode, Horowitz told SPIEGEL.
The Xbox needs 12 to 14 watts in instant-on mode, while less than one watt is required in the correct energy-saving mode.
The NRDC's energy expert assumes that many players' consoles spend 20 to 22 hours asleep every day and that the “excess energy adds up”.
Horowitz also warns against using the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X as external media players.
"Video game consoles should be used to play games, not to watch movies and TV series," he says.
Consoles draw an average of 35 to 90 watts while streaming a movie, according to Horowitz.
Alternative devices such as Apple TV, Google's Chromecast and Amazon's Fire products only need two to four watts in comparison.
Unclear prospects for cloud gaming
According to researchers, the energy balance in the console world could change drastically if cloud gaming were to take hold one day.
As soon as more than 90 percent of players switch to games via streaming services such as Playstation Now or xCloud, global CO2 emissions could increase by 30 percent according to a study.
The reason for this are the energy requirements of the data centers and the continuous download that is necessary for real-time games.
The overall energy requirement for gaming could increase even if, for example, the classic console could be replaced by smaller receivers with lower energy requirements that can be plugged directly into the television like TV streaming sticks.
So far, the gaming world is still a long way from that 90 percent scenario, as only about seven percent of players rely on the cloud.
There is also movement in the streaming market.
Microsoft, for example, launched its cloud offer xCloud in September and announced that the Azure servers used should be powered entirely by renewable energies in four years.
Short streaming is better than downloading - sometimes
Sony's Playstation Now service has been around for six years.
According to the company, streaming has so far only produced lower emissions than a game download if a title has been played through after a maximum of four to five hours.
From this length of play it is said to be more environmentally friendly to download a game.
However, by the time you reach the eco-balance of a disc, you can spend up to 20 hours playing a game on Playstation Now.
This is because Blu-ray games have an extremely poor ecological footprint and, compared to downloads, emit more than twenty times the amount of CO2.
According to a study from Canada, the plastic casing of a disc, which weighs around 50 grams, increases greenhouse gas emissions in the factory by around 250 grams.
When it comes to discs, the next-gen consoles also come into play again: Both the Xbox Series S, the little brother of the Xbox Series X, and the digital version of the Playstation 5 do without a drive and rely exclusively on it Downloads.
This is, although it has its own advantages and disadvantages for players, at least a small contribution to a better environment.
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