Case Study: Video Game Console Research

Cracking the Code on Video Game Consoles

Before Ecova and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) got involved, no one had ever looked at how much power video game consoles consumed. More than 40 percent of U.S. homes have at least one game console, and many households (an estimated 50 percent) leave them on continuously, making them a significant source of energy consumption.

On behalf of the NRDC, Ecova’s Research Solutions division performed the first-ever comprehensive study on the energy use of video game consoles. Conducted in the Ecova laboratory in Durango, Colo., our research found that the nation’s consoles consume an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year—approximately equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego. To break it down to more personal terms, a Sony PlayStation or Microsoft Xbox 360 left on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will consume as much electricity each year as two refrigerators.

The study identified multiple factors that contribute to increasing energy consumption by game consoles, looking at usage patterns, power management features, increases in average power consumption as new models are introduced, and other influences.

The research report Ecova generated provided a comprehensive list of recommendations for users, video game console manufacturers, component suppliers and game developers for improving current and future video game consoles. Highlights of these recommendations include:

  • A marketing campaign that encourages gamers to turn off their game consoles after use
  • Improved power management
  • Employment of efficient power supplies
  • Enabling of processor performance scaling
  • Collaboration on the development of standard power consumption test methods
  • Improved understanding of video game console usage

The project generated considerable interest from the technology field, leading to coverage by tech bloggers, The New York Times, NPR and CNET News.



Incorporating more user-friendly power management features alone could result in the following savings:

  • Up to 11 billion kWh of electricity per year
  • More than $1 billion per year in energy costs
  • More than 7 million tons of CO2 emissions annually

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