Untangling the carbon complexities of the video gaming industry: A way forward

April 23, 2024

Like a bag of cables left in a cupboard, trying to disentangle the ownership of emissions within the games industry is a slightly knotted affair. But for the past 12 months, members of the Playing for the Planet have been working with the Carbon Trust to try to bring clarity on where are the biggest sources of emissions in games, who is liable for them and what might be the new areas to address in the years ahead. While knots remain, progress has been made in clarifying what goes where with guidance for studios aligned to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.  

The main findings of the report are:

1. Measure your emissions:  The guide offers practical guidance to help video game businesses understand the landscape of scope 3 reporting and get up to speed on carbon accounting so they can measure their emissions (and ideally prevent them from happening in the first place). 

2. Set ambitious 1.5° C aligned  targets: Once businesses have measured their emissions, set an ambitious science-based target to bring the studio into alignment with the Paris Agreement.  

3. Engage your players to act: The report offers ten steps that players can take to make an impact, including checking their gaming set up so they can play with the carbon volume turned down and make climate action part of the conversation.

4. Learn from others: Join networks where you can learn and share best practice and be part of a community of climate action.

Watch the webinar that introduces the main findings of the report

The webinar includes a presentation of the main findings by report author Matt Anderson from Carbon Trust. It is then followed by a discussion with Trista Patterson, Director of Sustainability of Microsoft Xbox, Elina Tyynelä, Coordinator of Neogames Finland and Tommi Lappalainen, Senior Sustainability Manager at Rovio Entertainment Corporation who give practical advice on how studios can act to reduce their emissions and what they think should come next.

Who is this report for and who contributed to it?

This paper serves two audiences.

Gaming studios: If you run a studio and you want to get a primer on what the games industry can do to cut its emissions, then this report is for you. The paper has had contributions from over 11 Playing for the Planet members including Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, Rovio and Neogames who have provided their inputs and given practical examples for people to learn from.

Players: While games studios are responsible for the carbon intensity of games, how gamers play and what they can do to make a difference is outlined in the report. 

So how should studios be reporting on their emissions?

Over the past few months industry video games companies such as Riot, Ubisoft or Xbox have been reporting on their sustainability efforts. 

But getting a clear comparable picture is often hard as different companies can take different approaches. When it comes to reporting emissions, the report has the following three requests of video game businesses so that it is easier to have a broader picture of emissions within the industry:

1. Reporting consistency: apples and apples: Video game businesses should consider reporting results in a consistent manner, such as by GHG Protocol scope 3 category, and using consistent methodologies to support tracking performance over time. Trying to get a clear picture on emissions within the industry is hard when reporting methodologies have such differences.

2. Go granular and hit the unit level: While in many cases this already happens, getting more granular results by business unit or service (e.g., cloud streaming) would unlock more accurate benchmarking and insight for action. 

3. Transparency and completeness: Video game companies should clearly document the methodology, data sources, assumptions and boundaries for each category. They should also include the rationale for categories that are excluded or not reported.

What comes next?

There are a number of things that will follow the sharing of this paper today. 

A masterclass session to find out more: We’ll be organising a free masterclass session for anyone interested to learn more from the report author and gaming studio heads on 21 November at 5PM GMT / 6PM CET / 9AM PST. Please sign up here to confirm your attendance and to make sure you receive the details to join.  

A new Scope-3 calculator for the games industry: Using this study, members of Playing for the Planet will be commissioning a calculator that can support the industry to reduce its carbon footprint. 

Download the full report here.