Gamer Nostalgia: Bring Back Boxed Games
Not too long ago, people received physical disks in box sets when purchasing a game for a PC or game console. Today, the popularity of instantaneous, fully-downloadable games has replaced the need for physical box sets.
What is the harm in this, you say? We can get content faster!
But if you thought this would make it cheaper – you would be wrong. Despite claims by the game industry that costs would drop due to the removal of pricy packaging, downloads are still averaging $40, $50, and $60 per game. Clearly, no promised savings there, and no stylish box set to show for it.
Before Steam (and similar download sites), there was a time when the internet was too young for fast download speeds from dial-up connections. Games had release dates and shipment dates and Live dates. And there were stores dedicated to these physical games, such as Circuit City, Computer City, CompUSA, Electronics Boutique and Babbages which all had loyal customers who flocked to the stores to paw through rows and rows of games. None of these chains exist anymore.
There was an excitement felt when a game finally had a ship date. The savvy consumers and the gaming elite would have a copy reserved at multiple stores, just in case. And who could forget the sudden touch of the flu the day a much-anticipated game came out, leaving fans at home with plenty of time for gameplay binging sessions.
On that special release day, gamers would rush over early, wait impatiently until opening time for his or her brand new (reserved) copy – straight from the shipping crate. If you neglected to preorder a copy, or found that a store had leaked the game first, you would frantically call around, hoping to snag one before they were out of stock.
But! Once you had that sweet, sweet cardboard box in your hand….
Then it was a race home (with a fast stop for the essentials: food and drink), followed by delicately unwrapping those plastic disks and placing them – oh so carefully – into the console or computer disk tray. During the booting process, the manual would be visually digested as fast as humanly possible. Although most manuals were outdated by launch (gamer tip), it was dynamic, and it had some decent information for basic play.
Special editions often came with a special map or “collector’s edition” miniature (prized trophies for shelves and desktops).
How awful it was to be one of the poor schleps who had to wait until the work day ended, or (horror of horrors) until they could get their own copy a few days later because of stock availability (or lack there of).
Whether you would play until the server crashed or until the sun rose, you would then lovingly put the game disk(s) back in plastic sheath(s), insert the game back into the box, and proudly display it on the shelf with other conquered titles. Each game a cherished memory of game play and aesthetics, a tribute to the effort it took to secure and the ability to claim yourself as one of the “first” to play.
I can’t deny that downloadable games are easier to obtain, are better for the environment, and are more recent (you can download or update to the most recent version with little hassle, as patching used to be a nightmare). But gone are the stories of the hunt, the pride in the physical copy, and the trophy box on a shelf – a prized library of effort, status, fun, and memories.