In September last year, as part of the United Nations’ Playing for the Planet Initiative, Microsoft committed to producing 825,000 Xbox carbon-neutral Xbox consoles. An admirable goal and a good first step for the company’s gaming arm, with a new, more powerful console on the horizon.
Microsoft has been particularly proactive in the climate change space with extensive sustainability reports detailing its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. Its Xbox console commitment would see carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates used to save about 616,000 tons of carbon dioxide. A huge amount, equivalent to around 130,000 cars on the road for a year.
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But on Monday, a user started a thread on the ResetEra forums linking to a Microsoft Story Lab project about the company’s sustainability initiatives. The thread, which began to pick up steam on Monday, suggested Xbox had produced 825,000 carbon-neutral Series X consoles. This is not true and it comes back to Microsoft’s Story Lab project.
The project includes a slide featuring an image of the Xbox Series X, next to a claim “Xbox has created the world’s first carbon-neutral gaming console — actually, 825,000 of them.”
The page describing “the world’s first carbon-neutral gaming console” is misleading.
But the statement, and the image used to represent it, are misleading.
Xbox has created 825,000 “carbon-neutral” Xbox consoles, but this has nothing to do with the Xbox Series X. A Microsoft spokesperson told CNET the pilot program “was conducted with Xbox One X consoles.”
So why promote this initiative with the Series X? Was it just a marketing faux pas? Was it deliberate? We can’t say. I asked Microsoft for an explanation but did not receive a response. Now, after CNET and other raised concerns, Microsoft has removed the Xbox Series X from the image on its website.
Screencap by CNET
But why does it even matter? We are currently in the dark about the carbon emissions generated by the Xbox Series X. Microsoft does release “Eco Profiles” for its consumer devices, including the Xbox, providing a figure for the estimated emissions from manufacturing, energy usage, recycling and more. A spokesperson for Microsoft told CNET in March the Eco Profile assessment for the Series X has not been performed, because the system’s final hardware and software were “still in development.” We have no information about the Series X footprint.
And that’s a concern. For the climate-conscious consumer, it becomes impossible to discern how consoles are contributing (or not) to the climate crisis. Microsoft has committed to some ambitious climate goals as a company — like reversing their entire carbon emissions output by 2050 — but on the gaming side of the coin, it has been particularly quiet. With only two months until release, it would be good to know how the next generation fairs, without all the smoke and mirrors.