It was recently reported that, following criticism from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Microsoft’s Xbox One would have its system software updated so that energy-saving options are displayed during the consoles initial setup.
In short, by default the Xbox One is set to ‘Instant-on’. What this means is that the system will download game updates and the like whilst the console is in a ‘switched off’ state. Moreover, it helps to decrease console startup time. Unfortunately, by burying the option to change this setting amidst a selection of menus, many gamers have been getting caught out and have seen their electricity bill significantly increase due to the fact that their Xbox One is not truly switched off in this state. Because it is downloading updates it requires electricity, and so too much energy is being wasted by Xbox One systems across the world.
By moving the choice to switch between Instant-on and Energy-saving mode to the initial setup menu for new buyers of the console, Microsoft have made a step in the right direction, but the Natural Resources Defense Council argues that the tweaks don’t go far enough.
In a recent blog post, a member of the NRDC outlined a number of important points. Take a look at the screenshot of the new initial startup menu below and it’s hard to argue with what the NRDC senior scientist, Noah Horowitz, is saying. Noah points out that the vocabulary used on the startup menu is likely to encourage gamers who are perhaps uneducated on the consequences of their choice to choose the Instant-on option because it sounds like the one with more benefits.
Microsoft isn’t doing itself any favors with the wording on the Energy-saving option, which notes that the console will have “slower startup time” and that gamers will “get interrupted for updates”. That doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable, therefore many will likely opt for the instant-on option, meaning that there is no point in moving this option to the startup menu if you’re just going to encourage consumers to use what was already being used before they had the choice.
The council rightly suggests that Microsoft must go further by providing “neutral text to describe the Energy-saving and Instant-on options” and that if users do not make a choice, then the system should default to Energy-saving as opposed to Instant-on (which it currently does).
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to defend Microsoft in this situation. Whilst it’s encouraging to see them putting the Energy-saving/Instant-on decision front and center, they’re almost mocking themselves by attempting to persuade gamers to make the decision that has negative consequences on the world around us.
Whether or not Microsoft will indeed go ahead and make further changes to the system remains to be seen. The company has gained a strong reputation of late for responding to customer feedback, but they seem pretty adamant about wanting consoles to be Instant-on, so will they really make the decision for the greater good? Ultimately, if they do they will be further commended by the press and gamers alike, who will recognise them for their charitable ways, but if not they are walking on very thin ice. There’s no middle ground, but either way the choice that matters is ultimately down to you. Armed with this information, if you’re an Xbox One owner or you know someone who uses one, think about which option you’re using. I’m not here to make up your mind, but Microsoft are giving it a good go, so resist, and make the right choice.