No more manuals?

If you bought EA Sports‘ latest game Fight Night Champion you may have been surprised to find no manual with your game. No, it isn’t a mistake they simply didn’t include one. There used to be a few things certain in life: death,  taxes & retail games coming with decent manuals. It seems though we are at an end of an era. More and more gaming companies are now experimenting with digital manuals. Their logic being that not a lot of people actually read them – so why spend money on printing them? Plus don’t forget the marketing value of making them look environmentally friendly.

Ubisoft’s recent release of Shaun White got a lot of media attention because it only included a 2 page pamphlet, the rest of the manual could be found in-game. To their credit they also switched over to 100% recycled polypropylene cases, but is it any wonder retail game sales are way down? Manuals used to be works of art in their own right, adding additional background information, artwork and useful hints and tips. Some even went so far as to included full maps and comics based on the game.

With the exception of the cover-art, the manual is the only thing you get that isn’t included with digital distribution that you cannot acquire for a few pennies somewhere else. So not only does removing it diminish the value of retail games over its digitally distributed brethren it also limits its additional value over its pirated kin.

Let’s face it, digital distribution is becoming more wide spread and all major consoles are now open to pirated games. In this hostile environment creating additional value is more important than ever if retail game sales are to stay relevant. Instead gaming companies seem more keen to look environmentally friendly, reducing costs and trying to limit the 2nd hand market for games by adding one use codes.

If this trend continuous I won’t be surprise to see retail sales taking a serious hit in the coming years. Sure digital sales will increase somewhat but it’s going to hurt the bottom line if games go the way of the music industry. Gaming companies will blame piracy but I for one won’t be felling sorry for them. Didn’t your mother teach you that you can’t have your cake and eat it too?

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