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A History Of Video Game Packaging

Donkey Kong CountrySpeaking of video game packaging, here's a feature from GamesRadar that seeks to chronicle the evolution of the boxes and cases that house our favorite (and not so favorite) titles.  Spanning from the Atari 2600 to the Sony PlayStation 3 and most game consoles and handhelds in between (minus Nintendo's Virtual Boy, *ahem*), this exhaustive article looks at how packaging styles have evolved over the years from the "do whatever you want, third parties" 8-bit years to the "maybe we should have some brand identity" 16-bit era into the "do as we say" edict of the twenty-first century.  No little detail is overlooked.  I never thought that packaging could be so interesting or, dare I say, nostalgic.  Here's a piece of the article in which the original Sony PlayStation cases are picked apart:

Today, most of us remember original PlayStation games in CD-standard jewel cases. Did you know there were actually three different boxes before jewel case, each weirder than the last?  The launch-era games came in the same tall plastic cases as Sega CD and Saturn – possibly the first time rival consoles used the exact same packaging. The inside was pretty bare, and only housed the disc and the manual.  Just a couple of months later, the cases switched to black plastic, with ridges along the spine and even artwork in the case interior. Resident Evil, for example, has art of a busted-up lab.   Next came one of the worst cases ever – still tall, but cardboard and plastic mixed together and nothing on the inside to keep the manual from flopping around. The interior art was also missing, and they were a huge pain in the ass to keep open.  Furthermore, the new cases replaced the spine ridges with pictures of spine ridges. Resident Evil has the actual ridges, while Street Fighter Alpha shipped in the new, bafflingly ugly and useless new case.  Finally, about a year after release, Sony dropped all the weird packaging and moved to jewel cases, including thicker multi-disc cases for RPGs like Final Fantasy VII.  The PSX was the last console to drastically alter its packaging. In one year Sony had four types of boxes on the shelf, which had to be a nightmare for retailers and us at home trying to keep all this shit organized – but hey, at least they all kept the PlayStation logo in the same place, as was done with Sega CD and Saturn.

Personally, my favorite packaging has to be that of the Super NES.  There's something about the wide rectangle format (the letterbox box, if you will) that I find appealing.  The cartridge inside gave the package a respectable weight, too.  There was nothing better at birthday or holiday time than picking up a wrapped present and knowing immediately that a video game of some sort was inside.  Today's modern cases are easier to ship, stack, and sort, but I do miss the old cardboard sometimes.

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