In context: Due to the sheer number of video game sales that now take place on digital platforms (such as Steam, the PlayStation Store, or others), it's easy for younger gamers to forget that a sizable portion of transactions still occur in physical locations -- at GameStop, Walmart, or Target, for example. On an annual basis, the video game industry as a whole produces millions upon millions of physical game units; for sale at brick-and-mortar stores across the world.
The vast majority of physical game copies are sold in thin plastic packaging, which is arguably not the ideal choice where sustainability is concerned. However, the package feels good in one's hands, it's good at protecting fragile discs, and it's relatively cheap to produce. With these (and other) benefits in mind, a gamemaker would have to be crazy to use any other packaging materials -- right?
Not necessarily, according to Miles Jacobson, studio director of Sports Interactive (the team behind the long-running Football Manager franchise). The director recently penned an open letter that describes an alternate approach to video game packaging, which he and his team will begin using immediately.
"Up until now, the packaging for our boxed games has used a plastic case, like any DVD release. This is better than the huge cardboard boxes with CD cases inside that we used to produce 20 years ago, but it's not good enough," Jacobson writes.
Instead of traditional plastic casing, all physical standard edition copies of Football Manager 2020 will be sold in a "100% recycled gatefold cardboard sleeve."
Instead of traditional plastic casing, all physical standard edition copies of Football Manager 2020 will be sold in a "100% recycled gatefold cardboard sleeve." This sleeve, Jacobson claims, is made from "100% recycled fibres," and is fully recyclable itself (provided the game disc has been removed).
The printed text on the package is made from "vegetable and water-based ink," and the game manual has been built from recycled paper. "If you do want to eat the packaging, it's vegan," Jacobson joked in his announcement video.
If pre-purchase shipping or on-the-shelf wear and tear is a concern for you, Jacobson adds that Sports Interactive has acquired "recyclable shrink wrap" to encase the sleeve. Each unit will cost roughly 20 pence more to produce, but Jacobson hopes cheaper distribution and destruction costs will help to offset the expense.
Though this change will undoubtedly surprise many retailers, Jacobson hopes the impact it has on their day-to-day operations will be minimal. Barring a small 2mm difference in height, everything else about the size and shape of Football Manager 2020's new packaging should be identical to that of other games. "There's no need for any re-re-racking," Jacobson assures retailers.
So, what will the actual environmental impact be here? Naturally, that will vary based on how many Football Manager 2020 units hit store shelves, but Jacobson estimates that his team's initiative could save "around 20 tonnes of plastic" this year alone. That's an impressive claim given how few months remain in 2019 (the game is set to release on November 8), but given the positive track record of the Football Manager series, it should be achievable.
Still, even with the Football Manager franchise (or at least its 2020 iteration) set to go green as far as packaging goes, Jacobson doesn't feel that's enough. At the end of his open letter, he issues a challenge to other companies that sell physical media.
"[I'm] throwing down the gauntlet here to ALL entertainment companies who use plastic for their Blu Ray, DVD and CD packaging," he writes. "Imagine how much plastic we could save, how much landfill we could avoid and how much less plastic would make it into the oceans if we were all [doing] this?"
Regardless of how you feel about the climate change debate (we're not looking to convince you of anything here), we'd love to hear your thoughts on this initiative in the comments.