BIG GAMES COME
IN SMALLER PACKAGES
Copyright 2002 news.yahoo.com
[ August 6th 2002 ]
does matter, when the subject is software packaging.
For years, purchasers of computer software have
taken home Wheaties-sized boxes, pulled off the
shrink wrap and torn through yards of cardboard
- folded stiffly to give the external sensation
of fullness - to get eventually to one lonely
disc in a CD jewel case and a few small leaflets.
And retailers such as Wal-Mart found themselves
swamped under a wave of other products in growing
categories, such as video games and DVD movies,
all jostling for shelf space.
this year, the PC game industry finally took the
hint: It slimmed down the bloated packaging to
about the height and width of those items. Many
recent games, including Grand Theft Auto III,
Lilo & Stitch and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 have
hit stores in boxes not much bigger than a paperback.
The new measurements - 7 1/2 by 5 1/4 inches -
match the width and height of DVD packaging, and
they're slightly thicker at an inch deep. They're
one-fourth the volume of traditional software
boxes. Widespread adoption could save publishers
- which collectively released 1,500 games and
educational programs last year, says NPDTechworld
- tens of thousands on packaging costs, freight
and storage. "It seems more environmentally friendly,
too," says Trudy Muller of Electronic Arts.
'80s, environmental groups assailed the music
industry over the original cardboard longboxes
for CDs. But, to the surprise of many in the PC
industry, there never was a similar clamor about
the oversized PC boxes. "It always struck me that
was at least one bullet we seemed to dodge," says
Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive
Digital Software Association, a trade group. Instead,
retailers' concerns about shrinking shelf space
ultimately made packaging an issue. "We wanted
to preserve a box size that still allowed companies
to communicate important marketing messages,"
he says, while responding to the "clear sense
that if (retailers) were going to continue to
be able to stock as many of these games at retail,
you had to reduce the box size. Frankly, a lot
of retailers were shrinking the amount of space
they were devoting to PC games because console
games are so hot."
$1.9 billion worth of PC games will be sold this
year, according to DFC Intelligence, a San Diego-based
market research and consulting firm. But video-game
system software will far surpass that at $3.7
billion. And all games for Sony's PlayStation
2 Nintendo GameCube and Microsoft's Xbox come
in packages the size of DVD boxes. In comparison,
computer software came in all shapes and sizes.
Tomb Raider games from Eidos came in boxes shaped
like pyramids. Links Championship 2002 and Age
of Empires II: The Conquerers, both from Microsoft,
were different heights and widths.
retailers support the new standard. "It provides
a variety of benefits including the ability to
expand our assortment," says Wal-Mart spokewoman
Karen Burk. Game publishers had been wary of changing
sizes unless all of them agreed. The belief was
that bigger boxes "showed you were getting a lot
for your money," says Jerry Madaio of Electronics
Boutique. But consumers have warmed to the change,
he says: "Most think (the boxes) didn't need to
be that big. Some are even saying now they may
keep the box."
companies have adopted the new size, but Lowenstein
believes most will. With games such as Tomb Raider
and Thief, Eidos used different-shaped boxes to
make their games stand out, but the game maker
has reluctantly converted, says Eidos' Paul Baldwin.
With larger boxes, he says, "you could actually
market a product differently."
would like to see boxes shrink even further, to
the exact size of DVD and Xbox game packages,
an experiment it tried with Clan Mech Pak, a $12.99
add-on to the popular MechWarrior 4 game. "It's
very expensive to make good games," says Beth
Featherstone, head of marketing for Microsoft's
PC group. "The cheaper and more automated the
packaging, the more dollars you can put into making
his group has been asking PC makers to help with
more environmentally friendly disposal of PCs,
Ted Smith, executive director of the Silicon Valley
Toxics Coalition in San Jose, Calif., hopes that
the move is a sign of things to come. "If this
kind of agreement works and they don't lose money,
maybe they can think about incorporating recycled
content into the packaging and the game (CDs)
themselves," he says. "That's really the next