Microsoft joins UN-led Playing for the Planet Alliance, promises to certify 825,000 Xbox consoles as carbon neutral

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Amidst the growing global concern regarding climate change, 14 CEOs of some of the biggest game franchises in the industry are getting together to form the Playing for the Planet Alliance to combat CO2 emissions.

The Alliance’s announcement was made during a UN Secretary-General led Climate Action Summit at UN Headquarters today, September 23,2 2019 and included representatives from Microsoft, Rovio, Google, Sony Interactive, Ubisoft, Sybo and more have made a pledge to combat a growing climate crisis making changes in game design, energy management, packaging, and device recycling to reduce CO2 emissions by 30 million tons.

Microsoft executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer spoke to the new commitments, “Climate change is impacting each industry and every sector, and we believe technology can play a critical role in enabling and empowering the response to this challenge. Initiatives like our Minecraft Build a Better World Campaign and CarbonNeutral Xbox pilot provide a great opportunity to tap into Microsoft’s technology sustainability and gaming community to make a difference in this key area of our business.”

Perhaps, in an effort to be transparent and accountable, various commitments were created and facilitated by UNEP with support by Playmob and following the GRID-Arendal study Playing For the Planet. The combined efforts help detail and outline what each company plans to do to reach a united goal of reducing CO2 emissions.

  • Microsoft will announce the expansion of its existing operational commitment to carbon neutrality, established in 2012, into its devices and gaming work. It will set a new target to reduce its supply chain emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 – including end-of-life for devices – and to certify 825,000 Xbox consoles as carbon neutral in a pilot program. In addition, Microsoft will engage gamers in sustainability efforts in real life through the Minecraft its ‘Build a Better World’ initiative, which has seen players take more than 20 million in-game actions.
  • Sony Interactive Entertainment will unveil new progress and plans to utilize energy-efficient technology (on-track to avoid 29 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030), to introduce low power suspend mode for next-generation PlayStation, to assess and report their carbon footprint and to educate and inspire the gaming community to take action on climate change.
  • Google Stadia, which is set to launch later in the year, will produce a new Sustainable Game Development Guide as well as funding research into how “green nudges” can be effectively incorporated into gameplay.
  • Supercell (Clash of Clanswill offset the entire footprint of their community, Rovio (Angry Birds) has offset the carbon impact from their players charging their devices, and Sybo (Subway Surfer) and Space Ape (Fastlane) will offset 200 per cent of their studio and their gamers mobile energy use. Guidance documents will assist other companies to take similar actions.
  • Wild Works (Animal Jam) will integrate restoration elements in games and, like Green Man Gaming, they will focus on restoring some of the world’s forests with major tree-planting initiatives
  • Ubisoft will develop in-game green themes and will source materials from eco-friendly factories and Sports Interactive will eliminate 20 tonnes of packaging by switching from plastic to a recycled alternative for all future Football Manager releases.
  • Creative Mobile’s ZooCraft will evolve into a conservation-focused game with Reliance Games (Little Singham) generating awareness in the fastest growing mobile gaming market by creating awareness with kids to make them ambassadors for climate change with in-game events and initiatives across India. The biggest independent gaming platform in China, iDreamSky has committed to putting green nudges into its games.
  • E-Line Media (Never Alone, Beyond Blue), Strange Loop (Eco) and Internet of Elephants (Safari Central) will share their expertise of making high impact environmentally-oriented games into the Alliance
  • Finally, Twitch has committed to utilizing their platform to spread this message to the global gaming community with Niantic Inc (Pokemon Go) committing to engage their community to act around sustainability issues.

On the face of it, the video game industry stepping in and making changes to combat further irreparable climate change seems tangential at best, several franchise CEO’s highlight the reach gaming has with a combined audience of up to 2 billion people playing games. With an audience of close to a quarter fo the population, the gaming industry’s lead in altering practices to address a global crisis could go a long way to exacting change.