Then I got a driver's license.
Of course, that's not really the only thing that's happened to game manuals over the last 20 years or so. They've gone from informative to flimsy. They've gone from showing full-color shots of the games to black and white. They've gone from being an integral part of the package to being the place where legal information and boilerplate information about how to actually insert the disc in your system go to die.
So I'm not especially surprised to see Ubisoft's announcement this morning. In what's being billed as an eco-friendly maneuver, the company is going to eliminate printed manuals in favor of in-game digital manuals. Frankly, even that sort of sounds like overkill. I'm flipping through the Splinter Cell: Conviction manual right now, and the only actually useful thing in there that isn't also well-described contextually by the game itself is how to use the remote camera. And I'm sure I could have figured that out a bit better if I had actually fumbled around with it. There are also a couple of pages of character bios that are actually pretty good, but again, this is something that could have appeared as an in-game menu option.
Most of the time, I only turn to the manual when I'm really stuck with something, and ten times out of ten, the manual doesn't actually help. Considering they're no longer the art-filled wonders of yesteryear, I certainly won't miss them. It's just one more step in the direction of digital distribution.
The first Ubisoft console game to go manual-free will be Shaun White Skateboarding. White, as you might understand, is stoked about this:
While I'd prefer to the almost art book level of quality that some classic manuals had, that era's dead and gone. Given how absolutely useless manuals have become--especially on most console games--I doubt I'll miss them much and wouldn't be surprised to see other companies follow suit.
“It’s pretty cool that Ubisoft is making a conscious effort to go green with its new video game packaging,” commented Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White. “I’m excited for my new skateboarding game to come out and stoked that it will be the very first Ubisoft game to be part of their green packaging initiatives.”
What do you think? Think this'll catch on?