Do you know what I hate, other than injustice, war and broccoli? Game updates. As a time-poor gamer it sometimes seems that my Xbox Series X is booby-trapped: when I manage to get a few spare minutes to go in and kill space monsters, there's a multi-gigabyte update that I have to download before I can play. I'd leave my Xbox in standby overnight but with UK energy bills being what they are, even a small download has a hefty energy footprint. And when it comes to game updates, the downloads are rarely small.
So I'm delighted to discover that Microsoft has improved the Xbox Energy Saver mode to make downloading all those updates a lot cheaper. 20% cheaper, in fact.
More fun for less money
Writing on the official Xbox blog (opens in new tab), Microsoft's Dave McCarthy explains: "Energy Saver mode consumes about 20 times less power than Standby mode when the console is not being used or receiving updates. Now, system and game updates can be downloaded during Energy Saver mode, further saving energy."
It's part of a wider move by Microsoft to become a carbon negative, water positive and zero waste company by 2030. As part of that, all Xbox products, accessories and packaging will be 100% recyclable, and Team Xbox will also work "tirelessly" to reduce gaming's environmental impact. As Microsoft itself admits, during the pandemic Xbox sales and usage were partly responsible for an increase in emissions, an increase it's keen to reverse.
Software updates can help with that. Energy Saver is now the default mode on new consoles instead of something you need to choose, and Microsoft is also looking at ways to reduce the environmental footprint of its Cloud Gaming service: by 2025 its Azure data centres will move to 100% renewable energy. It's even pushing environmental awareness in Minecraft, and adding electric vehicles in Forza. Of course virtual EVs aren't any more environmentally friendly than virtual V8s, but by positioning them as exciting and desirable such moves can help shift the dial towards more environmentally responsible transport. And according to Microsoft there are more environmental initiatives to come.
If you haven't already enabled Energy Saver, here's how to do it: on your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S, go to Settings > Sleep Mode & Startup > Sleep Mode > Energy saver. I'll be doing it as soon as I clock off today.