Staying current on gaming isn't cheap. The consoles themselves cost about $300, and new retail games launch at $60. Even for a player who avoids DLC and only buys year-old or used games, the costs add up.
But what's really costing gamers? The electric bills.
Games consoles are known power hogs, but a recently published study from researchers at Carnegie Mellon University drives the point home. The biggest issue, the study finds, is not how much electricity the consoles pull while being actively used, nor even the "vampire" effect where electronics powered off still drain electricity. The biggest, most wasteful draw, it turns out, comes from consoles that are on but idle.
As CNet summarizes:
According to the research, 68 percent of all game console energy consumed in 2010 happened while in idle mode, which equaled 10.8 TWh of energy and about $1.24 billion in electricity costs. Overall, 1 percent of U.S. residential energy consumption in 2010 was spent on video game consoles, which is an increase of almost 50 percent over three years ago.
Digging into the researchers' report shows that as newer versions of the consoles have been released, particularly the 360 and the PS3, their energy consumption has dwindled. However, aside from the Wii, the most popularly found editions of both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 are their 2007 models, both of which consume significant amounts of energy. (See chart.) The Wii, even in active mode, uses significantly less power than either of its current-generation counterparts.
Of course, the amount that any individual or household spends on console idle time varies widely, based on behavior, geographical location, and other factors. The study estimates that an average household that enabled the auto-shutdown settings on either their PS3 or Xbox 360 would likely save $30 per year on energy costs, but that for users who rarely shut down their consoles, savings could reach $100 or more.
The moral of the story, according to the researchers? Turn your consoles off when you're not actually using them. A billion dollars spent on not even using consoles is a billion dollars that could be much better spent indeed.