There has been a lot of talks about computer games losing their manuals and including a PDF file in the installation disc or the like. However, now it seems like PSVita games as well are dumping the manuals. This diminishes the overall value of the video games.
I own the collector’s edition of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventure computer MMORPG. I’ve never played the game as I got the whole package second hand, but I bought the package because it has extremely good bonuses: music soundtrack, a cloth map, an artbook and a huge box to boot. It’s one of those games I bought simply because of the extras, but then again, I paid 3€ for it.
If games are to lose their manuals, I fully expect to pay less than 40€ for them. Printing a manual is costly, but putting one up really isn’t. If they’re really just going to put a PDF file to the disc, they’re devaluing themselves. Manuals have been an important part of the video game industry since the beginning. They’ve been essential to the experience since the Odyssey, where the rules and methods of gameplay had to be read from the manual. In the Atari days manuals had comics and stories with them, and PC games usually had some sort of copy protection that you had to crack with the manual. Even the NES Startropics’ manual had this page you had to dip in water in order to find an answer to an in-game question, thou this page was a separate letter in PAL region. Most fighting games list the character moves in the manual, and this was essential in the time when games didn’t list the moves in Pause menu. Special mention has to be given to the King of Fighters Maximum Impact that came with full colour booklet that not only listed the moves, but every characters’ backstory. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do a manual.
Most customers want a full fledged colour manual that matters. It’s part of the video game package as a whole, and with every game that comes with a lacking manual makes the customer feel like they’ve been cheated. It’s the same thing with the new DVD cases that have holes; it makes it all feel cheap. Actually, what I’ve heard most people who get these environmentally more friendly cases throw them away and buy new ones that properly protect the contents. What they could do is to make the cases smaller. DVD keepcases are oversized anyway, they could improve the CD jewelcases to be more durable and use them. I have to say that the BD cases SONY has been putting out are very good in this regard, slimming down the thickness and height, but keeping the value high.
However, the Nintendo DS, Sony PSP and PSVita cases are just far too big, especially the European DS cases. They could be more like the VHS cases; snappy fit, not too much empty space and compact. These three consoles are supposed to be portable in the end, so a portable case for the games would seem like a good idea, but this point has been missed. Also, they’ve missed the point of having manuals it seems.
From left to right with upper row first; BD, Japanese GameCube, generic DVD, GameBoy protection box, PAL DS, Japanese Sega Saturn, PSP, Japanese SNES box, MegaDrive case and rental NES case (basically a large VHS case)
I have to say that I love SEGA for having plastic cases for MegaDrive games. It gives the games more value. I can take a NES or SNES games without their cases, it doesn’t really matter. I can always get a VHS case for them. But MegaDrive games? It just feels wrong not to have the plastic case with them. It adds value to the game itself. Same thing with manuals. If a game doesn’t come with a manual, it has far less value overall. Cardboard boxes still feel cheap no matter what. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a new box for my loose games, but that would take a) a lot of room b) I don’t have a lot room. Racketboy has these neat multipurpose boxes, that seem to be modified VHS cases.
Losing the manuals from new games is a great loss most people won’t even notice. If you ask any video game hobbyist that lived in the 80’s about manuals, they usually have some fond memories of them and how awesome it was to read through them. Manuals have been underused for more than a decade now, and it shows. We are in need something like what Atari did back in the day, packing music tapes and comics with their games without resorting to these limited edition bullcrap we’re having today.
You want customers to buy your video game? Give it more value. Make a great box filled with extras.