Greenpeace have released their latest edition of their Guide to Greener Electronics rating Nintendo at the very bottom of the list of 18 electronics companies. It turns out that they’re bottom by default because Nintendo didn’t supply any data. So until Nintendo do supply some data, it’s not possible to tell how green (or not) they are.

Having been involved in trialling the Current Cost monitor recently, I’m interested in not only the company’s green credentials (which the Guide addresses) but the actual Wii’s green credentials, specifically its power consumption (which the Guide doesn’t seem to address). I think this kind of information would be useful to consumers – even if it doesn’t influence whether or not to buy the Wii, information about standby consumption etc would help consumers know whether they’re happy to leave the Wii plugged in 24 hours a day..

I’m interested to know because (like 6 million other people in Europe) I have a Nintendo Wii. So the other night I had a look at the Wii system settings. And found the WiiConnect24 option, which I hadn’t come across before.

In there, you can set your Wii to be:

  • Always connected to the internet (via the wireless connection that you’ve set up previously) regardless of whether you’re using the Wii or not (when in Standby, the orange light shows)
  • Always connected to the internet while you’re using the Wii but not when the Wii switches to Standby (when in Standby, the red light shows)
  • Not connected to the internet at all, even when you’re using the Wii

By default, after you have set up the wireless connection and enabled WiiConnect24 (which is required to be able to visit the online shop etc and which I must have enabled at some stage), the Wii is set to the first option–connected to the internet always, even when the Wii switches to Standby when you’re not actually using it. A benefit of being always online is that the little blue light on the front flashes to alert you that you have received a message (from a Wii friend or from Nintendo) or that there is an update available for you to download. Personally, this is of no interest to me.

So, anyway, AndySC took his Maplin power meter to his Wii and found that when being used (green light), the Wii draws about 15 Watts, which isn’t too bad really – considering that a laptop can take anything between 20 and 50 Watts, I think. And you’re actually making use of that 15 Watts.

In Standby without an internet connection (red light), the Wii draws less than 1 Watt. Again, not bad. You could unplug it if you wanted to save that Watt but 1 Watt on Standby is pretty good (this is based on a meter for which 1 Watt is the minimum reading, I think).

The bit that seems silly is if you leave your Wii in Standby with the WiiConnect24 internet connection enabled to be always on, the Wii is drawing about 9 Watts of power (over half of what it draws when you’re actively playing on it). Okay, I can see that for some people being alerted with the flashing blue light when you have a message is useful. And maybe it’s useful to be alerted that there’s a new update available so that you can download it when you’re not actually wanting to play on your Wii. What I don’t agree with is having the always-on option as the default setting.

From a usability perspective, having everything enabled by default is good in that the user isn’t prevented from doing any of the things that they might want to do (like receive message or update alerts). But if that wasn’t enabled, would many people actually miss it? It’s not like they wouldn’t still receive messages and alerts – they’d just find out about them the next time they switch on the Wii to play – and, presumably that’s fairly regularly if they’re into using the messaging and updates regularly.

Okay, so 9 Watts doesn’t seem a huge amount of electricity, but even if I use my Wii for 8 hours a day, every day (which is a long long way from the reality), that’s still 16 hours a day that the Wii is sitting there doing nothing at 9 Watts. And it’s that ‘sitting there doing nothing’ that really adds up against the environment and my electricity bill.

I discovered a couple of other features that require WiiConnect24 to be always on are the News and Weather channels but I think this requirement might be a bug – afterall, why should the Wii need to check the news and weather while you’re not using the Wii? When you open the News or Weather channel, I’m sure it checks for the latest information anyway. If anyone from Nintendo reads this, can you check this out?

So, the upshot is that while WiiConnect24 might be useful to some people, it’d be a bit more environmentally friendly to set it so that the internet connection is disabled when the Wii is in Standby. Let that red light glow!

I agree with Greenpeace that it’s important to know how environmentally friendly the company itself (Wii consumption aside) is so I’ll be interested to know what they conclude when Nintendo actually do provide them with data. Will Nintendo be able to overtake the dawdling Microsoft and Phillips?