Conflict Minerals: Which Game Console is Most Violent?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/28/2013 07:52:00 AM
With the holiday season upon us and one semi-new (Nintendo) and two completely new (Microsoft and Sony) video game consoles on the market, consumer interest is . While you may be thinking of blasting away virtual opponents playing Call of Duty 107 or whatever version they have nowadays, pause for a moment and think of the more than 5 million persons estimated to have died in the Congo in various conflicts. For, many elements you find in consumer electronics--including video game consoles--are sourced from mineral-rich mines there: tantalum, tin and tungsten.

Instead of Call of Duty 107, Congo is home to true-to-life civil war, foreign invasions, warlords, child soldiers, sexual crimes and so on piled atop a humongous body count that is still increasing. To fund these endless wars, proceeds from minerals--"conflict minerals"--have picked up their share of the (bloody) tab. While there are monitoring mechanisms in place that allow consumer electronics firms to gauge their reliance on dodgy Congolese sources, compliance is oftentimes voluntary and thus subject to wide variation.

So, which then are the most peaceful and violent video game consoles in real life? Watchdog group Raise Hope for Congo ranks MNCs by the measures they use in ensuring their products do not contain conflict minerals. Note that scoring high or low does not necessarily mean that their products have a high or low proportion of Congo-sourced conflict minerals, but rather that its share cannot be accurately determined because they do not keep tabs.

Microsoft (X-Box One) is greenlighted with a score of 30, meaning it has "taken proactive steps to trace and audit their supply chains, pushed for some aspects of legislation, exercised leadership in industry-wide efforts, started to help Congo develop a clean trade." Sony (Playstation 4) scores a 27 having joined some global initiatives but has not yet traced its supply chain for links to Congolese conflict minerals. Worst of all, Nintendo (Wii U) score a big, fat 0. Despite the ostensibly more family-friendly nature of its games as opposed to the blood-and-gore soaked titles of the other consoles, it is the bottom of the barrel:

What would Bowser do? If you look at the list, American companies generally rank highest, South Korean ones are in the middle, and the Japanese fall towards the back of the pack. I would believe that it's a function of activism insofar as most of them operate in the United States. Why South Koreans are more receptive than the Japanese to such entreaties makes me wonder, though.

Still, you'd hope Nintendo did a better job on the CSR end given that they are not exactly setting the sales charts on fire.