Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Packaging_Final_Final_V3_Final(2).pdf

Hey all - I hope you are all staying safe and well. It's been a while since I last wrote here and so much has been happening that I really don't even know where to begin! Firstly I guess I should start by writing about the two new games that we released last week, but before that I think I need to rewind a bit to cover everyone's favourite subject. Videogame packaging.

OK, so that's a bit of an exaggeration as I'm sure that no one really wants to discuss packaging at all, but it's a subject that has taken up so much of my time, effort and finances lately that it would be rude to not give it a brief mention here on this blog at least. So first of all, let's discuss the problem. Those of you whom are into collecting retro games are probably familiar with the Universal Game Case - the same case that RGCD has used for the past few years as packaging for our cartridge releases (with a custom made foam insert). Until recently these were both affordable and widely available, but since COVID-19 kicked in, they've become rarer than rocking horse shit. This has resulted in delays to RGCD game releases and restocking issues, so I had to find a solution.

However, I was reluctant to look of another off-the-shelf packaging option, as since starting RGCD back in 2006 I have already been through six variations of packaging already - so this had to be a final solution. One package to rule them all, etc.

One of the issues I have had with Universal Game Cases is that they are a bit too small for holding anything other than a cartridge and a thin game manual. Add anything else to the package and they bulge slightly and are difficult to keep closed. I resolved this for the last couple of projects I worked on (Dragonspire and Argus) by adding an outer sleeve, but the cost of doing this for every release would be prohibitive. It did however, put me on the right track.

During a discussion about this with long-time RGCD contributor and graphics-maestro Steven Day, we began to reminisce on the game packaging of the home-computing golden years. After covering the pros and cons of a variety of big box style games released on the Amiga, PC and C64, Steve noted how clever Microprose had been at using the same box packaging across all formats, utilising a generic inner box and an outer sleeve with stickers to highlight the target machine. I replied that I held a particular fondness for the Renegade/Bitmap Bros packaging on the Atari ST and Amiga, which again had an internal box that used an exterior sleeve but was a slightly smaller size. So, with this concept in mind, I looked into manufacturing costs while Steve knocked up a template.

You see, the main issue with any sort of custom made game packaging is the fact that it is only *really* affordable when ordered in large quantities. And by large, I mean thousands, or tens of thousands. Now, obviously this was no problem back in the 80's and early 90's, but shifting thousands of copies of a game for a retro platform in 2020 is a lot to ask, so some corners have to be cut in order to keep the costs down. After all, what is the point in beautiful packaging if it drives the price up to a prohibitively expensive level? Clearly the Microprose/Renegade 'sleeve' concept was the way to go. The final design from Steve was built up of modular components; a matte base with a removable insert (for holding a cartridge, or not), a matte lid with spot varnish RGCD branding and finally a glossy outer sleeve. My initial order was for 500 inner boxes, and 500 sleeves spread across five different designs. This resulted in a high quality box that was only slightly more expensive than the previous UGC, foam and printed insert combo (and definitely cheaper than current Game Case prices and the aforementioned additional outer carton option).

So there you have it, a few months after starting out on this journey and I'm proud to announce that Grid Pix and Boxy Moxy have both been launched debuting the new design (and best-sellers LuftrauserZ and Super Bread Box are the first older titles to be relaunched with it). The beauty of the new packaging is it's modular nature; if a particular game sells less than the predicted target, the majority of the packaging costs are automatically reallocated to a more popular game. In addition to this, just removing the insert immediately makes the package suitable for Amiga or other platforms as well, without detrimentally reducing the strength of the overall package. Oh, and of course there's the obvious environmental factor and storage space saving; 500 flat-packed boxes takes up half the volume of my previous solutions - even more so when you factor in all the different options I already stock.

Finances permitting, I hope to be able to continue to relaunch titles from the back catalogue with the new boxes on a monthly basis, and have even listed them as a product in my shop so people can upgrade their previous purchases (sold at cost price plus shipping). If fact, considering the going rate for second hand Universal Game Cases on eBay, you might even be able to make a profit!

In conclusion, I really, really hope you like the new boxes and I assure you that with the level of investment involved, these really will be the 'final' revision of RGCD game packaging. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback, so leave a comment below or drop me a line via the contact form.

P.S. - Fun fact; the images shown within this article are actually of a non-final sleeve which had to be re-ordered. I'd accidentally signed off the proof with a matte finish when it was supposed to be gloss. As a result, all 500 sleeves ended up in the recycling shortly after these photgraphs were taken! However, the final_final_final sleeves were really worth the additionally incurred cost.

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