No More Printed Game Manuals For “The Environment”, or “Pay Twice For What You Used To Get For Free”

The Gamer’s Blog has a very interesting story about Ubi Soft jettisoning printed game manuals as a “green initiative”

thsoundman writes:

“No more man’u’als? Ubisoft announced this week that they will be
ditch’ing the trend of print’ing instruc’tion man’u’als for new games
under the ‘green’ ini’tia’tive.  While no other pub’lish’ers have jumped
on that ‘green’ train just yet it is likely that oth’ers will
fol’low suit.”

To me, this is the same kind of corporate doublespeak that nets those “we don’t wash your towels or sheets every day to save the world” cards in the bathrooms of hotels.  The idea is to make you feel guilty for something you have already paid-for, while the business saves a little money.

As Flash game developers, we have been working on the art of the “in-game” manual for a long time, with very mixed results.  We know that most people simply skip the instructions and try the “well used” controls (arrows, WASD, space-bar, enter, mouse+mouse button, z,x,.,/).

At the same time, manuals for modern video games have became a joke anyway.  1/2 the space is used-up for the same coockie-cutter messages from from the console makers about “health issues”, and at least a 1/3 is a list of credits.  The rest contains the most basic information about the game possible, obviously hoping you will rely on in-game tutorials and/or shell-out $19.99 for a hint guide that tells you the information you need to know.

A good example of this is Red Steel II for the Wii.  The in-game instructions were good enough to get me started, but I still needed to know one very “midcore” thing: “how do I save the game?” 

There was no information any place about this.  Even my online searches were fruitless.  I finally just had to quit the game and restart to find out that it  auto-saves at specific places.  However, why such a mystery?  If anything should go into the manual, “save game” information seems like a good choice.

With more and more downloadable games, the printed manual has its’ days numbered anyway, but please, don’t try to sell it to us as a “green” initiative. We know full-well that it’s only a matter of time before game companies  start offering printed manuals for a “nominal fee”, and then we really will be paying extra for something that should have been included in the first place.   Why pay once when can pay twice for what we used to get for free?

Sorry big game companies, this is why the future of games is probably on the web.  At least here you get what you pay for.

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