Sustainability as a gamechanger: How the gaming industry is shaping its future

The gaming industry has become a major industry in recent years and is enjoying steadily increasing popularity worldwide. However, this development is also accompanied by growing responsibility. After all, gaming systems and servers consume an enormous amount of energy and resources, and the production of games requires the use of materials that are often not environmentally friendly. In this context, the issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the gaming industry. The gaming industry must rise to the challenge of developing and implementing sustainable solutions to make its gamers more environmentally and socially responsible.

Why sustainability is important in the gaming industry

The gaming industry has experienced an enormous upswing in recent years. According to a study by Newzoo, the global revenue of the industry amounted to almost 200 billion US dollars in 2022. An increase is noticeable worldwide. Regions such as Latin America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East and Africa – all with many exciting growth markets – will drive much of this player growth in the coming years.

But success has its downsides. One of the biggest challenges is the high energy consumption of gaming systems and servers. According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the gaming industry in the U.S. alone consumes more than 34 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year – roughly equivalent to the annual power consumption of five million households! This immense waste of energy leads to high CO2 emissions and thus contributes significantly to climate change.

In addition to energy consumption, the production of games also has an impact on the environment. Many games require the use of materials that are often not environmentally friendly, such as plastic or rare earths. These materials are often not biodegradable and can therefore become a problem when it comes to disposal. The production of gaming hardware and accessories also requires the use of raw materials that are not always sustainably sourced.

Currently, there are many developments and trends in the gaming industry that are aimed at sustainability. For example, more and more companies are focusing on renewable energy and working on more energy-efficient gaming systems and servers. The use of environmentally friendly materials and recycling of products is also gaining importance. In addition, there are also many initiatives and programs that help companies integrate sustainability into their business processes.

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Hardware: Sustainability in game production

The production of games has a significant impact on the environment and society. To minimize this impact, companies in the gaming industry must align their production processes with sustainability. This section lists some measures that companies can take to produce more sustainably.

1. Energy efficiency in production

An important step towards sustainability is improving energy efficiency in the production of gaming hardware. Here, for example, companies can rely on energy-efficient hardware, such as processors and graphics cards, or reduce energy consumption through special settings or tools. Optimizing production processes can also reduce energy consumption.

One example is gaming laptop manufacturer Razer, which has developed a cloud-based solution in collaboration with energy supplier Singapore Power to optimize the energy consumption of its gaming laptops. This automatically puts the laptops into a power-saving mode when they are not in use. The result is significantly reduced energy consumption and thus lower CO2 emissions.

2. Use of environmentally friendly materials

Another important factor for sustainability in the production of games is the use of environmentally friendly materials. Many companies already rely on sustainable materials such as recycled plastic or environmentally friendly packaging. The use of rare earths and other raw materials needed in the production of gaming hardware can also be made more sustainable.Here one should also take into account that new devices are always being added, such as VR glasses.

An example for the use of environmentally friendly materials is the company ASUS, which relies on environmentally friendly materials in the production of gaming notebooks. Here, recycled materials are used and environmentally friendly packaging is relied on.

3. Recycling and disposal of products

The disposal of gaming hardware and accessories can also have a significant impact on the environment. Many materials are not biodegradable and thus cannot be recycled. Companies should therefore take steps to ensure disposal is as environmentally friendly as possible.

One example is Dell, which collects and recycles old computers, monitors and other electronic equipment as part of its “closed-loop recycling program.” In this process, the materials are recycled in a closed loop to keep the environmental impact as low as possible.

Software: Sustainability in gaming

Not only the production of games, but also the operation of gaming systems and servers has an impact on the environment. In order to become more sustainable, companies must also take measures in this area.

One important step toward sustainability is to improve the energy efficiency of gaming systems and servers. Green coding is the keyword here. To reduce the carbon footprint of online games, companies can, for example, rely on energy-efficient servers, optimized network architectures and data centers with high energy efficiency. One keyword that must be mentioned here is green cloud computing.

In addition to measures on the part of companies, gamers themselves can also contribute to making the gaming experience more sustainable. This includes, for example, using energy-efficient devices and avoiding unnecessary energy consumption by optimizing graphics settings or using energy-saving modes. Another aspect is buying games and accessories made from sustainable materials or from companies that focus on sustainability. Gamers can also pay attention to the use of online platforms that are committed to sustainability or support donation campaigns for environmental organizations.

Social sustainability within gaming companies

In addition to environmental compatibility, social sustainability also plays an important role in the gaming industry. This includes, among other things, working conditions in the industry, the promotion of equal opportunities and diversity, as well as community management and customer loyalty.

Working conditions in the gaming industry: The gaming industry is known for its high workload and long working hours. To become more sustainable, companies should ensure that their employees are paid fairly and have appropriate working conditions. The issue of work-life balance should also be given greater consideration in the gaming industry.

Equal opportunities and diversity: Here, for example, companies can pay specific attention to the diversity of their workforce and ensure that people with different backgrounds and experiences are also given an opportunity in the gaming industry. The representation of women and people with a migration background in the gaming industry should also be strengthened. It is about inclusive design within gaming companies.

Community management and customer loyalty: Companies should ensure that they maintain open and transparent communication with their community and respond to feedback and suggestions from gamers. Responsible marketing, which, for example, avoids the issue of loot boxes and gambling, is also an important aspect for sustainable customer loyalty.

Sustainability successes from the gaming industry

There are already many companies in the gaming industry that are successfully focusing on sustainability. Incidentally, all the companies listed here have set themselves the goal of achieving CO2 neutrality.

Ubisoft has optimized its operations, integrated renewable energy, and reduced the energy consumption of its products and services. In addition, Ubisoft has implemented programs to promote equal opportunities and diversity and works closely with environmental organizations.

Sony has also integrated renewable energy into its operations, reduced the use of chemicals and packaging, and developed longer-lasting products. In addition, Sony is committed to promoting equal opportunity and diversity and supporting local communities.

Square Enix, in addition to renewable energy, has reduced the use of plastic and focused on recycling and reuse. Square Enix is also committed to promoting equal opportunity and diversity and supporting non-profit organizations.

Niantic, the developer of Pokemon Go, has reduced plastic use and implemented recycling and reuse programs. Niantic is also committed to promoting equal opportunity and diversity and supports nonprofit organizations.

Riot Games has also launched an extensive diversity and inclusion program to promote diversity and equal opportunities in the gaming industry.

Conclusion and outlook

Sustainability in the gaming industry is an important topic that should be considered by both producers and gamers. There are many approaches that the industry can take to become more environmentally friendly and socially responsible in order to minimize its impact on the environment and create a better future for all. Going forward, it is important that the gaming industry continues to pay attention to sustainability and find new ways to improve. This can be achieved by integrating new technologies, collaborating with environmental organizations, and increasing awareness among gamers and the industry as a whole. With the right commitment and support from producers, gamers, and organizations, a sustainable gaming industry can be created together that has a positive impact on the environment and society.