I remember when software boxes were cardboard, and Windows NT 3.1 came on 22 floppy disks!
Yep, I am that old :p
I remember when I would buy any software, it would come in a thin cardboard box. Games tended to be in slightly thicker cardboard, and I had some until I moved to Cairns a few years ago. Still, I must have destroyed about 20 Lotus 123 boxes installing them at different companies. Not intentionally, but if you squeezed just that little bit too much it flattened the box! Ah, the memories :p
What bought on this little trip down memory lane? Last week, Sega announced that they were committed to continuing an earlier packaging experiment. The experiment? 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. Even the shrink wrap can be recycled safely.
We're pleased to announce that all of our future physical releases of PC games will be launched in fully recycled packaging!— SEGA Europe (@SEGA_Europe) January 30, 2020
Total War: ROME II – Enemy at the Gates Edition from Creative Assembly signals our intent to continue with this environmental initiative. pic.twitter.com/SlPcUCikn3
What’s the big deal? You can recycle plastic already. Sega is just cheap.
Yes, plastic can be recycled, but only a certain number of times. Then it pretty much sits in its most toxic form in landfill or floating somewhere.
And while cardboard can be seen as cheap, it isn’t. It really isn’t. Because most packaging is plastic, most factories are producing it. Because fewer people want these packages, fewer people offer to make it. Cardboard packaging is actually more expensive than the plastic cases! We see this in board gaming as well. I have seen lots of people complain about the ‘cheap’ wooden pieces in games when they can cost double their plastic counterparts in terms of production costs.
There are other benefits to the cardboard packaging as well, though. Cardboard packaging is lighter and cheaper to transport. Lighter loads help reduce the carbon footprint of shipping large numbers of games even further. Sega is using water and vegetable-based dye to print on their covers. Why is this important? Because it ensures that the cardboard can be recycled with the least amount of waste (if any).
Plastic boxes last longer, but that is part of the problem. Large numbers of plastic cases are thrown away each year. Hopefully, other companies follow Sega’s example.
But there is also something puzzling about the change.
This only applies to PC releases. PC gaming is great, but physical sales of PC games haven’t exactly been booming for a decade at least. Across the board, downloading your games rather than playing the physical release has been increasing more and more.
I have bought around 45 physical games in the last two years. Most were PS4 and Switch. Two were for PC, and only because they were ridiculously cheap on sale at EB. Both of these PC games required I download the new versions anyway, so the physical part was not needed, except for my shelf. Those two games? Starcraft 2 collection and Diablo 3.
That means with my highly accurate testing group of 1, the number of physical PC games I purchased borders on insignificant. The boxes were also cardboard as well, but with metallic embossing and the like the probably made some of the cardboard unable to be recycled. This is what Sega is improving, but how many will see the benefit?
If you go to any gaming store with physical games, consoles dominate the shelf space. It’s just the way things have gone and will continue as digital storefronts continue to dominate sales.
So it’s just a publicity stunt?
I don’t think so. While I remember the old cardboard boxes with a sense of nostalgia, for Sega this is a significant change in ‘standard’ production. Dipping their toe into the waters makes financial and business sense. My issue is I don’t see how this small a market can make a big enough dent to understand the economic, market and environmental benefits though.
So while commendable, I say Sega Europe should go one step further. They can convert the packaging of all of their physical media in the new packaging, not just PC. Maybe just for an individual title/titles as a trial – converting everything at once would likely be too costly for the company to absorb. But trying with a broader market at the very least would allow better scrutiny of the ‘success or failure’ of the project.
Also, I would like to see Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo follow suit. Not including collectors editions, most games are a single disc that can be well protected in a cardboard sleeve. Worse, some games are just plastic covers for a download code printed on cardboard. Even if the new packaging was trialled on these download only retail releases, that would be a huge impact.
The more people that do this, the more the cost goes down. Here is hoping Sega can get the ball rolling with other companies.
Until next time,