Much of the responsibility lies at the feet of the games industry itself, especially MMOG hosts. A 2007 survey entitled “Estimating Total Power Consumption by Servers in the US and the World” revealed that online servers account for 1.2% of all power consumption in the US and 0.8% worldwide.
“Blizzard is rumored to have 500 servers for World of Warcraft alone,” says Wand. “Add in all the other titles, all the other genres, add in the games-mad Koreans, then consider that a fully occupied server will be using more power than a color TV, and you have some serious power slurping going on. And that’s before you consider the millions of people actually playing the games at the other end.”
Philip Rosedale, head of Second Life’s Linden Lab, is all too aware of his vast power needs. He recently announced during a podcast: “We’re running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in co-location facilities (where they house their 4,000 servers)… We’re running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we’ve got machines in.”
But Linden Lab also insist that their watts/CPU ratio has been reduced over the years. “MMOG companies have a big incentive to reduce their energy use, as electricity represents one of the biggest costs of running a data center,” explains Carr. “But I think it’s fair to say that, as with other data center operators, some games companies are smarter than others when it comes to minimizing electricity consumption.” Is Second Life ‘ecologically sustainable’? Perhaps. It’s still rubbish though.