Xbox is the first console platform to release dedicated energy and carbon emissions measurement tools designed for (and with) game creators
How Xbox, 343 Industries, and Ubisoft are reducing energy & emissions while maintaining gameplay fidelity, including a first look at the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit for game creators.
At Xbox, our commitment to our players and the industry is to reduce the impact that gaming has on the environment. With a gaming community of 3.1 billion players worldwide, Microsoft, alongside game creators, can drive positive change. In our discussions and research with game creators, there is growing interest in doing more to reduce gaming’s carbon footprint. So, with a little creativity and precision engineering, we can start to make steps toward a more sustainable gaming future – without lowering gameplay fidelity or negatively impacting the gaming experience. Today, we announced at GDC that Xbox is the first console platform to release dedicated energy consumption and carbon emissions measurement tools designed for (and with) game creators to help understand and reduce the carbon footprint and energy consumption posed by the games that they develop.
We have listened to passionate and motivated game creators and designers who have shared that, while the topic of sustainable gaming may feel new and untested, many efforts to reduce energy consumption can result from technical and creative skills where they already excel. For example, many game creators and designers already consider aspects that can reduce energy consumption during active game use, such as thermal load, frame rate, pixelation, latency, the size of assets they need to upload, or how frequently software updates are released. Many mobile game developers already consider battery life and how hot a device may get in a gamer’s hands if a game hasn’t been optimized for energy efficiency. In addition, game creators also demonstrate deep empathy for what players want and need – to continue playing the best games, while offering innovations in reducing carbon emissions, lowering electricity bills, and improving energy efficiency when possible.
Team Xbox listened, and we are now empowering game developers by providing development tools, global energy and emissions data, and title or studio-specific data insights that will connect purpose to innovation .Our case studies show that energy efficiency opportunities in game code do not have to be expensive or time-intensive to identify or solve, and the results can reduce console energy consumption, carbon emissions, and in-home electricity cost for gamers, simultaneously. But most importantly, energy optimisations to achieve these sustainability goals can be entirely imperceptible to the gamer.
INTRODUCING THE XBOX DEVELOPER SUSTAINABILITY TOOLKIT
Our goal is to empower creators and developers by providing information and tools to better understand the energy and emissions intensity of their games, and to introduce energy efficiency strategies into game development. The Xbox Developer Sustainability Toolkit includes analytical and visual systems, measurement tools, and resources to help creators make informed decisions about energy consumption and carbon emissions, associated with their game designs. The toolkit helps developers to leverage precision engineering feedback to help identify and reduce energy consumption in scenarios when a player doesn’t need it, thus ensuring the player experience is not negatively impacted.
- Game Developer Kit (GDK) and Power Monitor tools. These tools allow game creators to view real-time energy consumption feedback down to the nearest millisecond. This enables establishment of baseline, GPU use measurement with granularity, and can directly pinpoint energy inefficiencies that can be addressed. The toolkit also comes with an API designed to be used by games that have their own profiling needs. Lastly, this can also be paired with the Xbox Series X Devkit’s front panel, which has a Power Load % value for quick and easy reference during game development.
- Certification reports. With support from the Xbox Sustainability and Certification teams, game creators can identify game energy consumption averages specific to most common in-game areas, like static menus and loading screens. This can help game creators understand how their own games compare relative to the industry average – and use this information to create their own success metrics.
- Power consumption dashboards. With game telemetry in place, these dashboards can offer any studio a bird’s eye view of the global average of how much energy its games are using relative to the platform average. Specifically, the dashboards can show the carbon footprint and total energy consumed during game play and the studio over time.
- Guidance, best practices, and case studies via the pilot program and Xbox Game Dev Docs. The path to a more sustainable gaming industry requires knowledge sharing and community. As game creators across Xbox Game Studios, Xbox Game Studios Publishing, and the broader Xbox ecosystem refine experimentation methods, identify best practices, and co-develop new tools via our pilot program, their learnings and stories will be published in Xbox Game Developer Docs.
EARLY USE CASES FROM GAME CREATORS
At Xbox, we believe that to reduce gaming’s impact on the environment, we must work in collaboration with our fans, game creators, and the industry. We created the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit in collaboration with studio partners via a small pilot program that allowed us to co-develop tooling requirements, test, assess value for developers, and create best practices for experimentation. The following studios provided case studies, demonstrating how the toolkit supported their efforts to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions impacts of their games:
Ubisoft. A long-time partner and collaborator via the United Nations Playing for the Planet Alliance and the IGDA Climate Special Interest Group, Ubisoft has been a vocal advocate for more environmentally conscious activations that map in-game behaviour to real-world environmental projects. Ubisoft’s Sustainability Director Nicolas Hunsinger and Senior Project Manager Iris Gardet saw game-level energy efficiency as their next critical phase of sustainability work. They engaged Production and Engineering Leads across their game studios to partner with Xbox - co-developing an approach to energy-efficient design and exploring a player-facing Eco-Mode. By leveraging the Xbox Sustainability Toolkit, Ubisoft has been able to measure the global footprint of their games on Xbox – laying the groundwork for deeper studio engagement.
343 Industries. After hearing a call to action from Xbox’s Director of Sustainability, Trista Patterson, Halo Producer Alex Le Boulicaut established 343i’s sustainability working group, estimated the electricity required to run Halo games and used this information to motivate collaboration across the studio. 343 became Xbox’s first case to engage in A/B experimentation to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with game development. Using the Power Monitor tools, 343i established a baseline: on an Xbox Series X running at 4K/60FPS, the average GPU usage is about 92%, which represents an average power consumption of 67.5%. Through further experimentation, 343i realized that, even when the game was paused and blurred to display the settings menu, a 4K image was still rendered in the background that a player could not see. By lowering the resolution in the Pause menu, 343i was able to decrease energy usage by 15% with no negative impact to the player experience. With these insights in mind, 343i is now exploring potential for bigger energy savings.
These insights will be published on Xbox Game Developer Docs for public access. Xbox Game Studios Publishing is using these insights to create a framework and game efficiency checklist that can be leveraged for unreleased titles. This enables game teams to make more proactive design decisions during a much earlier phase of game development, reducing expense and risk.
We invite you to join Xbox in being on the forefront of building energy efficient ways to play. Work with us to create a more sustainable gaming future in which everyone can continue making and playing the games we love.
If you’re a game creator who wants to learn more about published tools, best practices, and case studies we’ve shared, check out Xbox Game Developer Docs and Developer Forums. We invite you to take what’s helpful and apply it to your games, no matter what platform they’re on.
If you are excited to take on a more active role in helping us expand on our developer tools, methods, and best practices, reach out to your Microsoft contact and ask about the sustainability developer tools and pilot program.