A Grumpy Old Gamer’s Thoughts on Joust and Game Packaging

Over the past few days I’ve been swapping Atari 800 related tweets with @jazrignall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Rignall) & @RetroGT (http://www.retrogt.com). Joust and Dropzone being two classic games we’re quite misty eyed over.

Jousting makes me feel good.

To give myself a slight break from banging my head against geolocation APIs I dug out my old Atari 800 and put in the Joust cartridge. I’ve not actually played Joust since I was a teenager so I was floored to find that it’s still massively playable. Not just through my rosebud tinted glasses either. It really is a phenomenal game. Fast, frantic and lots of fun. In fact, I’ve just played for about 20 minutes which is about the same length of time as I played Joe Danger for yesterday.

I love Joe Danger but one thing I noticed, when I paid my £9.99 for it, was it didn’t come in one of these:

This is Joust in a lovely box. You should play this now. It’s 18 years old and still amazing.

Like the music industry, digital downloads (and their corresponding can of DRM worms) are quickly replacing the physical format. I miss the boxes but this isn’t a lament for the LP or gatefold sleeves, it’s really more aimed at the economics and philosophy of selling goods. It’s hard to charge money for something that has no physical form or rather it’s hard to persuade people that the invisibile item has comparable value to the same product that has physical form. You can, but it’s more effort than having it in box and I miss the boxes. For example, I still buy CDs becauase I like the artwork and sometimes, ironically, they’re cheaper than via iTunes.

To the left of my desk is this slightly random collection of games from my larger more random collection:

Some games on my desk

There’s been a gradual evolution toward something homogenous which ultimately lead to the tiny little itsy bitsy SD card (bottom of picture, actual size) which my purchases are now saved to. The SD card is very smart in terms of the vast amount I can store on it but it’s dead to me on an emotional level.

Take the bottom item for instance, Obliterator by Psygnosis, almost totally style over content. The game looked great, played like a dog but I didn’t care, it came in a massive box that looked like a prog rock album (actually they used Roger Dean a lot http://www.rogerdean.com/ who did Yes’ sleeve covers). Sitting on top are two of Ultimate’s classic games. Jetpac is in a normal cassette cover and underneath sits Sabre Wulf, the first game they charged £9.99 for (Jetpac was £5.99).

Ultimate justified the higher tag primarily by sticking it in a bigger box with better artwork – the game of course had to be of greater quality too. Perhaps as the quality of the games improved packaging became less important as a way to differentiate the product. But to the person shelling out their hard earned cash, I think it still has importance, but maybe I’m crazy as I prefered to buy Valve’s Orange box in a store rather than over steam.

Does packaging add weight to the product or is it just an additional expense that we should jettison?


Leave a Reply