Dude, Physical Copies of Video Games Suck Now

It’s been a minute since I bought a physical copy of a game. I admit it — I love the convenience of digital downloads, and over the past decade or so I developed a distaste for material clutter, so not having boxes everywhere was great for me. But as I’ve come down off my Konmari-fueled minimalism bender, I’ve come to realize there are a number of benefits to physical media. For one thing, it’s nice to be able to share games you’ve purchased with your friends and family. For another, I’ve become more aware of how ephemeral digital media can be. Yes, even when publishers delist games you typically still keep the ones you’ve already purchased, but I’ve still been leaning towards building up a little physical library of titles as of late. Since optical media is pretty much dead on PC, that left Switch games as my main target.

I decided to order Chrono Cross: Radical Dreamers Edition from NintendoSoup. For whatever reason, Square Enix decided to only release physical copies to Southeast Asian markets, but since it had English language support I decided to pay the extra little bit to import it instead of just downloading it off the eShop. NintendoSoup was great to purchase from, and I have no complaints with the actual process. The game finally arrived the other day, and while I wasn’t expecting much in terms of physical materials, I got…

Chrono Cross

…nothing. Not a sheet saying “the manual is online,” not a safety warning slip, literally just a lonely little game card. You could argue that it’s a small print run of a relatively niche game — a re-release of a PS1 RPG — but still. I get nothing? I lose? Good day, sir?

It seems like your two options for physical copies of games these days are either an empty plastic clamshell or an overstuffed luxury release that runs over $100 and includes a bunch of stuff most people probably don’t care about. And while those limited run bundles produced by boutique publishers can be nice, I wish we could have the middle ground back. Maybe I just miss instruction manuals and need to accept that they’re dead, but give me something, you know? A fold-out poster, a diagram of the controls, a map, even just that little sheet covered in legal information that seemed to be wedged behind the manual of every Nintendo game in the 2000s. Alternately, just make the box really tiny and cute. Just package physical carts in little SD card holders with cover art so small you need a magnifying glass to get a good look at it. But this big empty plastic case thing is just kind of depressing.

Has it been this way for a while? Yeah, I think so. Am I only just noticing it now because I haven’t bought a physical game in a while, making me part of the problem? Absolutely. Still, though. At least give me a reversible cover or something. I mean, come on. Chrono Cross deserves better. We all do, don’t we?

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