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The recently-published GDC State of the Industry Report revealed that developers are growing frustrated with the games industry’s sustainability efforts.

Rhea Loucas

February 21, 2024

5 Min Read

The recently-published GDC State of the Industry Report revealed that developers are growing frustrated with the games industry’s sustainability efforts. The survey noted that 72% of developers recognised some kind of success in their studio’s sustainability drives – but this percentage of respondents was down from 90% in the previous survey.

Meanwhile, as the report notes, the biggest change was in the number of developers who said the industry’s efforts were not at all successful – up to 27% compared to 10% previously.

So, what’s changed in terms of attitudes towards sustainability efforts?

The obvious answer is: market conditions. It’s well documented that certain parts of the industry are facing challenging times, with restructures and redundancies taking place as developers and publishers ‘reset’ following the huge market growth during Covid. As such, some studio leaders might take the view that they have other priorities to focus on, rather than being ‘distracted’ by ESG policies and programmes.

Tackling the big environmental issues, head on

Yet, it’s clear from the GDC report that their employees do very much want to see action being taken to tackle climate change. And the next generation of industry talent even more so – Millennials and Gen Z want to see social responsibility from potential employers if they are to consider a career with an organisation.

Meanwhile, we know that our consumers absolutely want to see action being taken to tackle climate change. We regularly carry out our own studies into gamers’ attitudes towards sustainability and green issues, and in the wider business world there are multiple studies which show how consumers want the brands and products they engage with to have a social conscience.

This means we know that players care – they’re concerned about the carbon footprint and environmental impact – and younger gamers in particular are worried about climate change. In a Playmob/Green Game Jam survey of 400,000 players, 81% said they want to be able to contribute to green projects. That’s amazing when you consider there are an estimated three billion players globally.

But the reality is that to really achieve carbon neutrality, the world needs to set aside $9 trillion every year in funding, from now until 2050, according to an analysis by McKinsey & Co.

So, what can we do when this is such a huge and difficult issue? Something that can seem almost impossible to tackle. After all, governments and regulators have done so much work over the past 20 years, yet progress is still very slow – especially in the context of the post-Covid economic situation and the energy crisis.

From a business, or professional perspective, we still want and need to travel – many of us will be flying to San Francisco for GDC, for example. When that is such an important event to attend for business connections, it’s difficult to suggest people do otherwise.

Harnessing the power of ‘passive activism’

But what if we can make small actions that add up to something much bigger? Using people power, at a grassroots level, in an engaging way? I refer to it as harnessing ‘passive activism’, and it’s the main reason I started PlanetPlay, with the aim of being a disruptive not-for-profit that can help save the world through games.

I think that as an industry there’s a big opportunity to provide easy, engaging ways for people to do their bit when playing the games they love – and motivating the gaming community to do a little bit individually, to collectively make significant progress.

This could be something as simple as creating a green or sustainability-themed in-game item or DLC that, when downloaded/bought, contributes directly to a named sustainability project, or offsets an amount of carbon. It’s about digital actions resulting in real-world actions.

The data bears this out: We have seen in-game green activations, such as the one we’re running in Lockwood’s Avakin Life in partnership with artist Fat Joe, result in a 6% increase in downloads, plus a 104.8% uplift in new user acquisition and 58.7 % uplift in re-activated players (all stats are from the Google Play store 15/09 to 18/09).


I believe that connecting with players around their climate passions and concerns can be a win-win for everyone: Players know that their purchases are making a difference to the planet; while games developers and publishers see increased revenues from greater engagement, whilst also playing their part in tackling climate change.

Place transparency at the heart of your sustainability drives

There are many resources and platforms available to help studios take both their first steps on their ESG journeys or build on what they may already have started. But whatever path you take with your own studio and games in terms of green initiatives, complete transparency is key – both gamers and developers need to see where their contributions are going, the projects they are helping to fund, and the difference they are making in terms of carbon offset.

The carbon offset project we support is the Hongera cookstove, which lowers carbon emissions as it requires less wood/fuel to operate, in turn reducing the amount of trees that are cut down and directly supporting families and the environment in Kenya.


At PlanetPlay we have set a goal of the reduction of a billion tonnes of carbon each year once we hit our peak. We truly believe we can do that as the games industry is full of good people who want to make a difference to the planet. Together we can make it happen.

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