Monday, April 18, 2011

Modern Video Game Packaging is Terrible and Makes My Feet Sad

Yeah, I know it's a bit silly. But I mean it - video games come in terribly boring packages today. It's a certain design aesthetic, of course, but far too sterile and boring. It's not just Nintendo, it's everybody.

The thing I loved about the Wii's ad campaign so much is that it brought back the image of the family playing video games together. That's how games were sold back in the Atari 2600 and NES days. Video games are meant to be fun, they're meant to be social. Today, the game industry is desperate to be treated "seriously" and treated like adults. Games are seen as the New Hollywood, as Lifestyle Chic. Personally? I think these are toys, meant to bring smiles to children of all ages. We shouldn't feel embarrassed about that, but celebrate it.

C.S. Lewis once said that when he was a child, he read fairy tales in secret and in fear of being discovered; but as an adult in his 50s, he read them openly. That's what I'm thinking of here (wish I had that quote). The video game business needs to overcome its fear of appearing childish. He who is not busy being born is busy dying, sayeth the bard.

I'm pretty sure this is a generational thing. Marc from Classic Game Room HD made the very same points about the 3DS box design. We just grew up with these exciting, fun packages that were full of color and warmth and excitement. Imagine how much fun it is for children to open their "big" Christmas present...and they're greeted with the Atari Video Computer System, or the Nintendo Entertainment System, or the Game Boy. Woww!! Remember that Youtube video of the boy who got a Nintendo 64? THAT is the goal of your package design.

Does that make any sense? I should also say that there is no problem that Nintendo couldn't fix with the 3DS. If they could bring the price down, extend the battery life, create new and original games that show off the system's powers, and demonstrate why 3D is the wave of the future, the 3DS will be a success. We're still in the first inning. The only problem is that reputations are made and solidified fairly quickly. If we're still talking about this in 12 months, then Nintendo is going to be in a lot of trouble. They can't take anything for granted.

The PS3 is a perfect example of everything going wrong. It was an unmitigated disaster for Sony, and Nintendo does not want to follow that path. IMHO, as always.

Just look at the giant box for the Atari Video Computer System (aka the Atari 2600).  Doesn't it look inviting?  Doesn't it look like everyone is having fun?  Doesn't that look like the greatest Christmas present in history?  It's a scientific fact that giant Christmas presents are awesome.  And the Atari 2600 VCS box was enormous.  But that's because it came with two joysticks, a pair of paddle controllers, the Combat cartridge, and a comic-book catalog.  That's value, kids.

Now take a look at today's video game machines, which have nothing interesting on the outside of the box, and nothing interesting on the inside of the box.  If I was a kid today, I'd rather ask Santa for some socks.

No comments: