In a move that is sure to upset gaming purists, publisher Ubisoft announced that in an effort to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging, they will no longer be including paper manuals with their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles. This initiative will start with this holiday's Shawn White Snowboarding.
In lieu of paper manuals, games will have digital manuals provided in-game. In a statement the publisher said, "Including the game manual directly in the game will offer the player easier and more intuitive access to game information, as well as allow Ubisoft to provide gamers with a more robust manual."
Driving home the environmental impact of paper manuals, Ubisoft also said, "Internal data shows that producing one ton of paper used in Ubisoft’s game manuals consumes an average of two tons of wood from 13 trees, with a net energy of 28 million BTU’s (equivalent to average heating and energy for one home/year), greenhouse gases equivalent of over 6,000 lbs of CO2, and wastewater of almost 15,000 gallons."
Ubisoft PC games will also be getting the environmentally friendly treatment. Although they have not included paper manuals since last month, in a partnership with Technimark, Inc, the publisher will be shifting to 100% recycled polyprylene cases. The first game to feature these new cases will be Splinter Cell Conviction on April 27th.
While the environmental aspects of this move are certainly commendable, it is probably safe to assume that this is also a welcomed cost cutting measure for Ubisoft. In a statement to IGN, Ubisoft addressed the financial issue and said, "The digital game manuals will be for Ubisoft games going forward. While the company will save money on paper, it's unclear if these costs will be offset by the labor of the development team to create a more robust game manual within the game."
As physical media continues to inch towards obsolescence, reductions in the physical components of packages shouldn’t come as a surprise. With the win-win nature of this kind of initiative, expect other publishers to follow suit.