By Dan O’Sullivan

Among many stats in our Elephant in the Living Room report on the rise of electrical gadgets and appliances in the home, the fact that between 2000 and 2009, electricity use from home computing more than doubled, from 3.1TWh to 6.5TWh was a big one.

Our increasing addiction to gaming is a part of this – though it’s not like there isn’t promising developments on this front. New cloud technology seems to offer a way to cut back on the energy consumed as we fly through fantasy worlds of various kinds.  

The notion is relatively simple – rather than using our own energy to power gaming hardware in the home, a cloud network processes the games and streams them to our TV, monitor, laptop or PC.

The cloud system processes the game on a remote server, meaning no top end consoles or high spec computers are required on our end, as all graphic and performance demands are processed by the cloud servers. They even save game progress, so that 20th season of Dagenham and Redbridge plundering the Champion’s League on Football Manager will not be lost in the ether.

With all this in mind, there appears notable potential to cut back on our household energy use when it comes to games consoles, decreasing the domestic reliance on high performing hardware to meet our gaming needs.

Obvious questions arise when it comes to effectively streaming graphic intensive games into our home via the internet, although companies offering such technology emphasise its reliability and claim that game quality is not sacrificed in a bid to deliver the service.

The technology has already been available in the US for the past year and is only just making its way into the U.K. market, where its potential to challenge console manufacturers could well increase dependant on its initial success and performance. 150 different games are currently offered by some cloud companies, and with the required TV plug in offered coming at a fraction of the cost of the more popular consoles, real competition could emerge if the service proves to be as effective as it claims.

With the above in mind, are we set to see PC towers capable of unmanned space flight become a thing of the past? The quick answer is probably not – at least not in the short term – although the need for such high end technology in a number of homes could definitely decrease should cloud gaming really take off.

If the new service can supply the most modern, top of the range graphics so as no spec of bloody detail is lost on those Call of Duty rampages, the need for us to constantly update our system in line with rapid technology developments could slowly disappear. Indeed, people may well be encouraged to buy cheap, low end hardware if the cloud systems can properly deliver the service they promise.

Clearly, the possibilities are there – cloud gaming could gradually phase out consoles, and in doing so also cut back on the number of energy consuming electrical appliances in UK households. A report in 2009 suggested 8 out of 10 British homes owned a ‘next-gen’ console, and if all of there were to be replaced by cloud technology, extensive domestic energy savings must surely result as a consequence of these devices disappearing from our homes.