Everyone’s favorite kerfuffle generator, the Internet, is at it again, making kerfuffles out of kerfufflets. The source this time is a pair of blog posts from Noah Horowitz at the NRDC drawing attention to the fact that the Xbox One consumes a remarkably high amount of energy, especially when in standby mode – or, as you or I might say, “turned off.” Predictably, this news has induced a case of what you might call Gamer Persecution Syndrome among a certain subset of gamers who show a strong aversion to any critical or negative commentary about our hobby (see: feminism). To be fair, this type of thinking is not unique to gamers; hyperbolic, vitriolic reactions can be found in just about any comment thread on the Internet, and usually represent a tiny slice of the community. Also, this is not a huge issue. The reaction has been pretty muted, and I doubt anyone will be talking about this a month or two from now. Still, it seems worth writing about, because there are a number of misconceptions in the coverage of and reaction to this story.
First, some background. While a lot of the coverage has referred to “a recent report” or something along those lines, what they’re really referring to is a blog post. (The word “blogs” in the URL and “Noah Horowitz’s Blog” at the top of the post should’ve been clues.) The report in question is actually almost a year old, and is linked to in the third paragraph of Horowitz’s blog post, a paragraph that begins with the words “last year.” The report outlines the results of an NRDC study of energy consumption by the three current-gen consoles and makes recommendations for improving their efficiency. One of the big takeaways is that current-gen consoles use a lot of energy – enough to power all the homes in Houston by the end of this generation – and a lot of this energy is consumed in standby mode.
The March 26 blog post criticizes Microsoft for not only making the energy-gobbling “instant-on” mode the default mode, but for also burying the energy-saving mode in the less-than-intuitive settings menus rather than as an option during initial setup. Someone buying and setting up a new Xbox One could easily have no idea that the energy-saving mode even exists, let alone how to activate it. Microsoft responded to the post (and media coverage) by announcing plans to add a screen to the setup process that will prompt users to choose between these two modes “in the coming months.” Horowitz responded with a second post that praised Microsoft for addressing the issue, but expressed skepticism that the changes would be as effective as they could be. He pointed out that the new setup process would still default to the “instant-on” mode, and uses language that seems biased against the energy-saving mode; he also pointed out a few other areas where Microsoft could make energy-saving changes. Continue reading Now You’re Playing with Less Power