Game Industry Net Zero Snapshot 2023 Overview

  • 35+ global games & tech companies, with around $1.2Tn in 2022 revenue
  • 10s of millions of tonnes of CO2 emissions disclosed, larger than many small countries
  • Total GHG disclosed for each business & new for this year – percentage change since 2021
  • New metrics including CO2 per $1M revenue, and CO2 per employee & new industry-wide averages
  • Projections for 17 non-disclosing games businesses using conservative industry-wide averages
  • Disclosures largely pertaining to calendar year 2022
  • Harmonizes disclosures across Scopes 1, 2 & 3
  • No new net zero targets
  • CDP & other ESG ratings

About the 2023 Snapshot

AfterClimate is proud to present the latest instalment in our annual series examining the digital games industry's progress towards essential net zero climate targets.

In the 2022 snapshot, we focussed on the level of ambition across the industry, focusing on dates and plans for zero emissions game development by the biggest games companies in the world. In this year's snapshot, we consider who is delivering on this ambition. We also add brand new metrics regarding the emissions intensity of games businesses, and critically focus for the first time on the total amount of CO2 disclosed by each company. For the first time, we are able to see absolute emissions disclosed and apply industry-wide averages to make projections for those that have not. The snapshot also shows who is improving, by reducing their emissions, and who has gone backwards.

2022 was not a typical year – pandemic restrictions loosened, borders reopened, and business activity returned to something approaching pre-pandemic normalcy. In all sectors, businesses saw emission grow after two years of lockdowns and high levels of work from home. For this reason it is worth celebrating those few that were able to reduce emissions for this achievement – though they are sadly far from the majority.

This year's snapshot exposes those companies that are still not doing the bare minimum in terms of emissions disclosures and transparency. It also shows there is a rapidly widening gulf between the industry leaders making real progress towards greening the games industry and those who are sleepwalking into climate risk.

2023 is likely to be yet the latest "hottest year on record", with the costs of climate disasters at an all-time high. Action has never been more urgent.

This year's snapshot represents a preview of our forthcoming game industry sustainability benchmark report which will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. The report comes with a free 1 hour consultation to answer questions about the data, and your business or investment's place in the overall sustainability picture.

At the bottom of this page we again link to our working spreadsheet with details and the majority of the data used to compile this year's snapshot. We once again invite others to verify and interpret our findings for themselves.

For further questions about the 2023 snapshot or to find out what you could be doing to accelerate emissions reductions, please use our contact form via the link below.

get in touch with afterclimate
AfterClimate founder Dr. Benjamin Abraham and Bones, the chicken

Environmental disclosures from the biggest names in games

Drawing on ESG disclosures, and new conservative projections, for the following companies:

  • Microsoft
  • Sony
  • Tencent
  • Apple
  • Google
  • Ubisoft
  • Supercell
  • 37 Interactive
  • Electronic Arts
  • Square Enix
  • NCSoft
  • SEGA Sammy
  • Nintendo
  • Activision Blizzard
  • Bandai Namco Entertainment
  • Take-Two Interactive
  • CyberAgent
  • Roblox Corporation
  • Playrix
  • Mixi
  • SEA Ltd
  • Keywords Studios International
  • Embracer Group
  • Warner Bros Discovery
  • Konami
  • NetMarble
  • Perfect World
  • Riot
  • Nexon
  • Playtika
  • Aristocrat Leisure
  • NetEase
  • Unity
  • Epic Games

Over 81 million tonnes of CO2 disclosed by games & tech companies

Games are big business, and with global scale comes global impact. For the first time we can share that companies included in the snapshot disclosed over 81 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2022. A majority of this footprint comes from big tech companies Tencent, Sony, Microsoft, Google and Apple, but we are unable to estimate what share of their totals are game related at present.

Even when these 5 companies are removed from the total, the remaining businesses disclosed over 7 million tonnes for 2022. Our projections for the remainder who did not disclose suggests an absolute minimum for the total footprint of games business is over 14 million tonnes of CO2.

It is clear that the games industry has the carbon footprint of a small country. Compare these figures with the 2021 annual emissions of Bolivia (23m tCO2e, pop 12m), Finland (37m tCO2e, pop 5.5m), or Greece (57m tCO2e, pop 10.6m).

Most companies are not disclosing gamer emissions

The vast majority of disclosures did not include Scope 3, Category 11: “Use of sold products” in their calculations. As an optional category under the GHG protocol, this leaves responsibility for them outside the corporate boundary.

This also means that the footprint of the global gaming audience remains virtually unknown. Only three games companies – Embracer Group, Bandai Namco (for FY22 ending in March) and CDProjektRED – included figures for end users of their game products. Sony, Microsoft, and Apple also disclosed aggregate estimates for end users emissions across all products.

Despite the sensitive nature of game audience numbers, we would like to encourage greater focus on this area from the entire industry, as game makers, publishers, and platforms are in a unique position to understand the scale and footprint of this part of the industry. It is also where some of the most exciting sustainability work is occurring (see below).

Insufficient evidence of decoupling revenue from emissions

To achieve net zero targets, games businesses will need to be able to achieve profitable operations without scaling emissions to match. The complexity and currently optional nature of Scope 3 disclosures presents a significant challenge to assessment of progress on this crucial dimension.

In the annotated chart below, we have added notes about the extent of Scope 3 disclosures, focussing on those that include the substantial Scope 3 Category 11 "use of sold products" (that is, emissions of gamers playing games). We have drawn small arrows to indicate the direction we can assume these businesses would shift with the inclusion of Cat 11, along with any other substantive categories not yet included. Unfortunately, after this adjustment there is little evidence of signs of decoupling, with the trend of increasing revenues matching increasing emissions. This is an area we will be tracking closely in the years ahead, as it is one of the most fundamental challenges to the long term sustainability of the industry.

Industry emissions intensity averages

To track this process of greening the games industry, we are introducing two new metrics against which we are now able to track the emissions intensity games businesses.

These metrics are emissions per 1 million USD of revenue, and emissions per employee. Given the haphazard state of Scope 3 disclosures, we are now tracking each of these metrics against both Scope 1 & 2 subtotals, andScope 1, 2 & 3 totals.

Taken together, we hope these metrics reveal the progress made in the years ahead, allowing us to observe the changing emissions intensity of different games businesses as they track to net zero.

Because revenues fluctuate from year-to-year, per-employee metrics are an alternative, equally valid and useful metric to track and consider. During a lean year between major releases, per-revenue metrics may appear to inflate substantially, while per-employee metrics remain stable and more reflective of long term performance. Both metrics need to also be understood within the wider context of the industry and performance over multiple years.

Both metrics have their use, and we are excited for the new potential to understand and track emissions intensity in a more nuanced and granular way in the years ahead.

Get our latest updates

Absolute emissions change from 2021-2022

However the planet doesn't care about our relative intensity. The atmosphere is affected by how much, and how fast, we are filling it with greenhouse gasses. Below we present the relative changes in total greenhouse gas emissions since 2021 – with the caveat that 2021 was a pandemic year of artificially low emissions leading to increases in 2022. Accordingly, we can and should expect many of these to shift from red to green next year.

Left: year-on-year absolute emissions down or flat.
Centre: emissions increasing.
Right: incomplete or non-existent emissions disclosures.

Congratulations to those studios and businesses who reduced their emissions in 2022 – this is no small achievement, and only comes through diligent, determined effort.

  • Tencent -13.73%
  • Apple -11%
  • Nintendo -2.95%
  • Ubisoft -0.14%
  • Activision Blizzard +0.47%
  • Embracer Group +0.68%
  • Google +1.58%
  • NetEase +4.67%
  • SEGA Sammy +13.6%
  • Microsoft +16.5%
  • Sony +17%
  • Unity +32.4%
  • 37 Interactive +150% (poss methodology change)
  • CyberAgent +93.88% (likely methodology change)
  • NCSoft +576% (likely methodology change)
  • Netmarble (incomplete Scope 3)
  • Keywords International (incomplete Scope 3)
  • Square Enix (incomplete Scope 1 & 3)
  • Percect World (incomplete Scope 1 & 3)
  • Nexon
  • Playtika
  • Epic Games
  • Supercell
  • Mixi
  • Roblox
  • Playrix
  • WB Discovery
  • Konami
  • SEA Ltd.

End user energy consumption breakthroughs

2023 saw some groundbreaking initatives to reduce end user (gamer) energy and emissions. In March, Microsoft announced that they, together with Epic Games, found ways to reduce Fortnite energy consumption by 80MWh per day – the same amount as produced by the Utgrunden wind farm in Sweden.

Out of this project came the Xbox Sustainability Energy Efficiency Essentials guidelines that any game studio can apply to find wasted energy to eliminate from end users. These are going to be some of the hardest emissions to tackle, and rightly earned Microsoft the Gamescom “Green studio of the year” award.

Update on supplier engagement

Last year's snapshot revealed the growing importance of supply chain engagements in addressing the majority of game industry emissions. With the vast majority of overall game industry emissions falling into Scope 3, partner sustainability is starting to be prioritised, both up and down the game production value chain.

An inherently difficult topic to quantify, we are encouraged by the number of businesses reporting new and continuing supplier sustainability initiatives. These include new requirements, additional expectations around data transparency, and the application of sustainability criteria in choosing partners. See the full snapshot spreadsheet for more details.

Half of businesses in the 2023 snapshot (18 out of 36) disclosed some type of supply chain engagement, with the largest businesses typically having the most advanced policies.

Progress from 'catch-up' businesses

Last year we identified businesses we considered "aware of the need to act" but who had not yet made substantial ESG progress. We wanted to highlight new progress from two in particular:

"Being a late mover in ESG management, we efficiently advanced ESG with our CEO playing a pivotal role and quickly closed the gap… Netmarble reorganized the ESG Committee into a committee under the Board of Directors in March 2023. Going forward, we will establish governance led by the Board of Directors to further improve our institution and capability to drive sustainability management."

Take-Two Interactive
T2's annual impact report notes a new "goal of formalizing and disclosing specific goals, targets, and metrics in future reports. […] We are considering KPIs associated with renewable energy, responsible sourcing, materials, and waste generation."

Despite missing the opportunity to set net zero targets, both businesses have taken substantial steps towards enabling long term sustainability. We hope that we will have even better news to report in 2024, as more businesses find the courage to adopt this essential target.

Disclosures still missing from snapshot

Companies not disclosing emissions in 2022: Epic Games, Valve, Mixi, Roblox, Playtika, Playrix, Nexon, Warner Bros Discovery, Konami, SEA Ltd, Supercell.

Companies disclosing incomplete emissions: Square Enix (no scope 1 or 3), Netmarble (no scope 3), Keywords International (no scope 3), and all those companies not calculating scope 3 cat. 11 (gamer emissions).

Key Takeaways

  • Game development emissions are in the 10s of millions, larger than many small countries
  • 2022 saw no new net zero targets but some new disclosures and much new activity
  • 2022 was a return to pre-pandemic emissions levels for many companies, with few able to avoid increases
  • Absolute emissions show little sign of reducing, and no sign of decoupling revenue from emissions
  • 14 out of 32 games companies are still not disclosing any emissions, even more are not disclosing all relevant categories of Scope 3
  • Physical and transition risks from climate change have never been clearer, more present, or more dangerous to business

The 2023 net zero snapshot was months in the making, covering hundreds of pages of reporting and disclosures – not all in English – and involved hours of data entry, standardisation and analysis.

In the coming weeks, AfterClimate will be making available for purchase a first of its kind game industry sustainability benchmark report, containing the most fine-grained details and metrics that go further than the high-level snapshot. With this report we hope to enable games business, investors, government agencies and other interested parties to benchmark in precise detail specific progress on emissions. Additionally, the report will assess the level of preparedness, planning and exposure to climate risks, examining the TCFD disclosures and other climate risk-facing initiatives of each company represented in the Net Zero Snapshot.

Every copy of the report will also come with a free 1 hour consultation with AfterClimate founder and report lead Dr Benjamin Abraham, to answer questions about the data, your business' or investment's place within the wider industry's sustainability context.

To get notified about the release of the report, as well as for future updates on the snapshot, and other research-backed insights from AfterClimate, subscribe to our newsletter: 'Greening the Games Industry' with your email below.

If you want to dig into the data collected for the 2023 game industry net zero snapshot, use this link to view the online spreadsheet. For questions, media inquiries and other feedback, please use the contact form on this website.

Highlights from the Newsletter

What does designing for energy efficient games look like?

Back in March, right after GDC, I wrote a piece about the Microsoft Xbox sustainability team’s work to put live power draw numbers front and centre on Xbox devkits, and integrate real world telemetry from actual Xboxes out in the wild...

How much CO2 does it take to make an indie game? Calculating the footprint of Die Gute Fabrik’s Saltsea Chronicles

As I teased the other week, I’ve been working on calculations and a report on the entire development process for Die Gute Fabrik’s new game Saltsea Chronicles. That report is now complete, as is the the game itself.

What if games came with a CO2 emissions label?

Earlier this year, I set out to answer that question – posed initially by Marina Psaros who was (at the time) working for Unity in SF as their sustainability team lead. Would there be a benefit to putting some sort of sticker or label on game boxes and store pages?