What is the games console industry approach with regard to new market entrants?

The basic tenets of the Industry Self-Commitment are based on sound engineering principles that ensure a rich gaming experience in the most energy-efficient and cost-effective manner possible. Industry is confident that compliance with the Agreement, in addition to being environmentally beneficial, makes good business sense. Entrance into the games consoles market requires considerable investment and development and it is extremely likely any new entrant will be known in advance. In such cases, the GCVA is open to extending membership to new entrants. 

Why do games consoles require more power to play media than dedicated media players?

Introducing separate video circuitry would require the main console circuitry to power down while the separate video circuitry is powered up, introducing significant and unnecessary latency. In addition, the use of separate video architecture is neither technically nor economically feasible at present. In fact, the payback period from consumer energy cost savings vs the cost of additional components would significantly exceed estimated console product lifetime, considering the energy savings achieved in media mode to date through power caps set out in the GCVA. 

What is the justification for the additional power cap for natural-user-interface (NUI) and how it is measured?

Gesture and speech recognition Natural User Interface (NUI) is a function which allows the user to interact with the games console without the need for a game pad, external controller or other external device. This is accomplished by sensing and recognition of physical gestures and/or voice commands. It requires both computational power and power for the motion and sound sensing hardware.

This NUI power cap allows NUI functionality as an option, provided it is implemented with a minimal increase in power. At the present time, no consoles within the scope of this agreement employ a NUI interface device.

Does the games consoles voluntary agreement observe the Commission guidelines on voluntary agreements?

The GCVA supports and observes the Commission Self-Regulation Measures Guidelines, as they contribute to the credibility and provide a roadmap for the development of existing and future voluntary agreements. In its attempt to provide a more standardised and consistent process to set up and maintain voluntary agreements, the Commission Guidelines can be a helpful aid for industry to develop a voluntary agreement that meets regulators and stakeholders’ expectations. Alignment with the Guidelines increases the certainty that the VA is fit for purpose and provide enough flexibility in order to accommodate the different industries, as these vary considerably in nature and thus their processes and outcomes will also differ. 

How much energy is the games consoles voluntary agreement estimated to save?

It is estimated that over 5 TWh of energy use will be avoided in the year 2020 through the use of energy efficient technologies and power management driven by the GCVA. This is approximately equivalent to the annual electricity output of two 500 MW power stations, assuming 70% capacity factor. These results were based on calculations using Sony and Microsoft ultra-high definition (UHD) consoles.

How does automatic power-down (APD) work?

APD must be triggered within 60 minutes of user inactivity for all operational modes other than media play. APD time limit for media play is longer, at four hours, to allow for the uninterrupted completion of media content lasting longer than an hour.

Why isn’t there a power cap for the time a games console is "inactive"?

A games console is inactive only when it is either in standby or turned off, in which case the console must comply with the requirements of Commission Regulation (EC) No 1275/2008. Consequently, the GCVA does not include a separate power cap for when a console is "inactive".

What are the technologies used in games consoles to achieve considerable energy savings?

Consoles may use several energy-saving technologies, examples include:

  • Efficient power supplies
  • Power supply output power reduction
  • Die shrink (based on predicted trends inefficiency and performance of PCs per transistor)
  • System-on-a-chip architecture
  • Power scaling of CPU and GPU
  • Processor performance scaling and power management techniques
  • Advanced power management technologies to reduce on-idle power
  • Default Automatic Power Down (APD) features
  • APD with saving of in-game progression
  • Low power mode functionalities (such as USB charging of peripherals, downloads and updates).

What is navigation mode?

Navigation Mode is defined as the “mode in which no other mode is engaged and the games console is displaying a menu of functions from which the user may select”. Unlike a simple computer menu, navigation mode is by design a function that provides an active display which invites the user to interact with the various functions provided by the console.

When in navigation mode, games consoles may be rendering animated graphics with avatars and real time information and maintaining on-going internet-connected activity. This involves various background operations including active processing and writing to and reading from memory while waiting for and responding to user input. In other words, navigation mode is a function, not a static list.

Can gameplay performance be benchmarked?

A study investigating the potential for developing a performance benchmark for games consoles with the aim of providing a suitable metric for measuring energy efficiency was conducted in 2017, led by Professor Jon Koomey (expert on energy efficiency of computing). The study concluded that:

“The dynamic nature of consoles creates extreme complexity.  It is unlikely that meaningful metrics for comparing gaming performance can ever be developed for game consoles and gaming PCs. The complexity of these devices makes it difficult to define computational output in a way that can be accurately, consistently, and correctly compared across game consoles or between consoles and PC gaming machines. Without consistent computational benchmarks, it’s unlikely that a benchmark for active gaming will ever be good enough on which to base efficiency regulations or utility incentives to promote more efficient products.”

In addition, a study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) supported the above conclusions and highlighted that the voluntary agreement approach was a more effective driver of console energy efficiency than mandatory measures. 

How does the games consoles voluntary agreement address resource efficiency?

The GCVA includes various commitments to improve resource efficiency. These include:

- Commitments to support product life extension, by providing the following information to consumers (either provided with the console itself, onscreen, in hardcopy, or online):

  • Explanation on how to keep the consoles in good working condition (e.g. how to keep the product dust free, how to install system updates, how to remove trapped disks, etc.)
  • How to delete personal data (e.g. if the consumer wishes to send the console for reuse)
  • Options available (if any) to consumers to upgrade the performance of their consoles (e.g. installing a bigger hard drive)

- Provision of a refurbishment or out-of-warranty repair service, supported by the following requirements:

  • Technical documentation made available to authorised repair centres
  • Spare parts made available to authorised repair or refurbishment centres 
  • Maintenance and refurbishment made possible by nondestructive disassembly of the key components
  • Accessing components enabled by documenting the dismantling operations needed to access the targeted components
  • Informing consumers of end-of-life processing, refurbishment and out-of-warranty repair options available within the operating instructions of each games console (with instructions either provided with the console itself, onscreen or hardcopy, or online).

- Commitments to improve recycling at end-of-life, by marking console plastics parts >25g, indicating their resource composition (exceptions apply, see section 3.3 of the GCVA).

What is the Games Consoles Voluntary Agreement?

The Games Consoles Voluntary Agreement (GCVA) was drafted by the games console industry, in consultation with the European Commission and input from various EU stakeholders, including Members States and NGOs, as a voluntary commitment to further improve the energy efficiency of games consoles. Also referred to as the Self-Regulatory Initiative (SRI), the GCVA provides a more effective alternative to mandatory legislation. The European Commission formally recognized the GCVA on 22 April 2015. The Agreement is continuously updated and the latest version can be found here. It is flexible enough to adapt to new technologies in a timely manner and serve as a template for similar harmonized rules throughout the world. It enables the games console industry to proactively develop integral and innovative energy solutions that allow for the evolution of gaming technology without degrading the level of play.

What is its objective?

The objective of the GCVA is to further improve the energy and resource efficiency of games consoles through improved design. It sets out the means by which the Signatories commit to achieving rapid and effective implementation of the requirements set out by the Agreement while continuing to invest in and develop innovative gaming experiences.

When do the power cap requirements for games consoles under the voluntary agreement apply?

  • Tier 2: As of 1 January 2016
  • Tier 3: As of 1 January 2017
  • Tier 4: As of 1 January 2019

The GCVA undergoes regular reviews and updates. Additional power cap requirements may be introduced in future revisions.

What is a games console and what products are covered by the Voluntary Agreement?

The GCVA defines a games console as a computing device whose primary function is to play video games. Games consoles share many of the hardware architecture features and components found in general personal computers (e.g. central processing unit(s), system memory, video architecture, optical drives and/or hard drives or other forms of internal memory). Games consoles operational modes include Media Play, Navigation and Standby. Products falling within the scope of the GCVA are those that:

  • Typically utilise either dedicated handheld or other interactive controllers designed for enhancing game playing (rather than the mouse and keyboard used by personal computers)
  • Are equipped with audio visual outputs for use with external televisions or video projectors as the primary display
  • Typically use dedicated console operating systems (rather than using a conventional PC operating system)
  • May include other features such as optical disk player, digital video and picture viewing, digital music playback, etc
  • Are mains powered devices that use more than 20 watts in active game mode with either internal or dedicated external power supply.

What products are not in the scope of the GCVA?

  • Games software
  • Console peripherals and accessories that are battery powered (e.g. controllers, camera and motion sensing input devices)
  • VR headsets
  • Set Top Boxes

What does the voluntary agreement commit the games consoles industry to do?

The GCVA sets out a detailed list of commitments that require Signatories to further improve the energy and resource efficiency of games consoles, they place on the European market. 

Energy savings are realized through power caps that apply to navigation and media play modes, and implementation of a power management system, which automatically powers down a console after a set period of time when it is not in active use (see 'HOW MUCH ENERGY IS THE GAMES CONSOLES VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT ESTIMATED TO SAVE?').

The Signatories also commit to meeting various resource efficiency requirements (see 'HOW DOES THE GAMES CONSOLES VOLUNTARY AGREEMENT ADDRESS RESOURCE EFFICIENCY?'), and to provide energy and non-energy related information in the console operating instructions (on-screen, hardcopy or online).

The GCVA also provides a standardized test methodology to ensure that console compliance can be uniformly determined. 

Signatories are required to periodically review the GCVA in order to keep up to date with the latest technical and legal changes in the European Union.

How is the games consoles voluntary agreement run and how is it supervised?

The GCVA is governed by the Steering Committee, which consists of the three games console manufacturers (i.e. the Signatories) and the European Commission. The Commission supervises the implementation of the GCVA. An Independent Inspector tests all new console models placed on the market, gathers data from each company, and verifies compliance with the Signatories’ commitments under the GCVA. A third-party Administrator provides administrative support necessary for the effective running of the GCVA. The Signatories and the Commission hold Steering Committee meetings twice yearly in order to:

  • Evaluate the GCVA effectiveness in achieving its objectives; and
  • Discuss current and future developments that may influence console energy consumption with a view to agreeing to a course of action or revising the GCVA.

What constitutes non-compliance under the games consoles Voluntary Agreement?

The GCVA establishes that non-compliance may occur in two cases:

  • The completed Product Compliance Report has not been submitted on time, or
  • The completed Product Compliance Report indicates that more than 10% of the games consoles placed on the EU market during the applicable Reporting Period do not comply with commitments as set out in the GCVA

What happens in case of non-compliance?

The Independent Inspector will contact any Signatory found to be non-compliant by 31 March of the following Reporting Period to seek to redress the cause of the non-compliance. Opportunities should be provided to discuss the circumstances of the case and, if possible, resolve the cause of non-compliance. A Signatory’s repeated failure to submit its compliance documentation shall lead to its exclusion from the GCVA. 

A Signatory which remains non-compliant twelve months after the publication of the Independent Inspector’s Annual Compliance Report or relevant investigation report shall forfeit its status as a Signatory of the GCVA. The Steering Committee will be notified of such exclusion or forfeiture and the information will be made public on this website.