Ubisoft Eliminates Printed Game Manuals

Posted by Jeff (3657 posts) -
 PAPER IS NOT EXTREME ENOUGH! DIGITAL MANUALS FOREVER!
For me, there used to be something almost ritualistic about game manuals. They were the things you stared at while you were being driven home from the game store, absorbing every detail so you'd be ready to go as soon as you walked through the door.

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:

“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.”

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.

What do you think? Think this'll catch on?
#1 Posted by Jeff (3657 posts) -
 PAPER IS NOT EXTREME ENOUGH! DIGITAL MANUALS FOREVER!
For me, there used to be something almost ritualistic about game manuals. They were the things you stared at while you were being driven home from the game store, absorbing every detail so you'd be ready to go as soon as you walked through the door.

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:

“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.”

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.

What do you think? Think this'll catch on?
#2 Edited by Bionicicide (1213 posts) -

 I support no manuals. Less wasted paper so my resold games save me an ounce on shipping and this can easily be offset by thoughtfully crafted in-game tutorials or just plain accessible controls and common sense game design. Companies can/should maintain the games' lore via Wikipedia. 
 
Last time I opened a manual was for MGS4:GotP to learn CQC maneuvers (hostage, butt hump choke, etc) and even after gleaming over the comic book presentation I just watched a CQC video tutorial [at YouTube] that was miles more intuitive than the manual.  
 
I'm much more worried about the "ecoTech" DVD case exposing the disc to damage via shipping.

 
Only reason we went with these lengthy cases was to accommodate VHS racks at retail stores. I wish all optical discs went with PS1's jewel case format.
#3 Posted by Gnubberen (781 posts) -

Seem pretty natural... If games are going all digital then it's just natural the manual does the same.

#4 Edited by LordAndrew (14430 posts) -

There's no way anyone can be that excited about the lack of a manual. Thanks for the PR spin, Shaun White.

#5 Posted by MysteriousBob (6272 posts) -

They're only doing this for publicity and to cut costs slightly. I don't really give a damn about manuals but I know cheap marketing when I see it.

#6 Posted by endaround (2147 posts) -

But then how will copy protection work?  Are all games going to come with a code wheel now?

#7 Posted by WitchHunter_Z (882 posts) -

I don't really mind that much, nowadays there's little relevant information in the majority of manuals anyway; it will be a bit odd having no booklet to fill out the left side of the DVD case though.
 
That said, I'm going to go and flip through my Startropics and Legend of Zelda manuals for a bit... *sniff*.

#8 Posted by trophyhunter (5800 posts) -

fuck ubisoft then

#9 Posted by hookem1883 (28 posts) -

I'm going to be geeky and say that I still want some sort of physical map to go along with my 50 hour plus RPG. 

#10 Posted by LordAndrew (14430 posts) -

I'm not too concerned as long as I still get my sweet cloth map.

#11 Posted by TerraDelu (501 posts) -

"  They were the things you stared at while you were being driven home from the game store, absorbing every detail so you'd be ready to go as soon as you walked through the door." 
 
Dude, yeah. I remember BEGGING my parents to buy me Earthbound and when they finally caved I tore that fucker open the moment we got in the car and read that strategy guide almost cover to cover before I got home. I am still that way to an extent though. I will flip through (not really read, just flip through) the manual for a game or the DVD leaflets while in the car before I make my way home. It certainly doesn't have the same impact it did years ago though. I guess what I am trying to say is... whatever.

#12 Posted by Microshock (341 posts) -

Uh yeah, this is typical Ubisoft PR bullshit. They took out manuals to save money. Part of the experience of buying a new game is the manual. Doesn't matter if you read it, it's there. It's part of the package. 
 
Games will never go all digital. Too many stores with too many interests to keep that from happening. And that's good since I don't know how many idiots want to have LESS control over a product they own

#13 Posted by comp13 (48 posts) -

I remember what Jeff is talking about because I use to read the manual for a game on the way home from the store. I still read manuals today, but mostly as something to do while the game installs to the hard drive.
 
I use to love big manuals because they came with complex games. Today the best I can get is some good documentation for Silent Hunter.

#14 Posted by Megasoum (361 posts) -
@WitchHunter_Z said:
" I don't really mind that much, nowadays there's little relevant information in the majority of manuals anyway; it will be a bit odd having no booklet to fill out the left side of the DVD case though.  That said, I'm going to go and flip through my Startropics and Legend of Zelda manuals for a bit... *sniff*. "
Bah...I'm sure there will still be a bunch of crap on the left side to advertise the other games and to give a ton of pre-order and "buy new incentive" redeem codes.
#15 Posted by McQuinn (651 posts) -

I personally love the novelty of having a informative or neat manual.  If there is ever a thick instruction manual I always look through it.  I really liked the MGS4 booklet.  But it does make sense since most games just say 'here is the X button on your controller'.

#16 Posted by buzz_killington (3532 posts) -

Just say this is to cut costs. "Eco-friendly..." Bullshit!

#17 Posted by AgentJ (8778 posts) -

I can't say this really upsets me or anything, but it is a little piece of gaming history that seems to be beginning to die.

#18 Posted by sketch (194 posts) -

It'll be a sad day when a (full) Civilization game doesn't come with a half inch thick manual

#19 Edited by zaglis (910 posts) -

Cheaper games, right?
Ubisoft: LOL NO.
 
Nobody is going to notice the difference anyways since cutting content from retail product is a-okay nowadays.

#20 Posted by jlanzer (49 posts) -

now no one can get pissed at gamefly and blockbuster for not including manuals with the games.

#21 Posted by TheHBK (5554 posts) -

The plastic cases missing pieces is the shit that I dont want.  Though a game manual for me was something to read when taking a shit.  I always appreciated game manuals for RPGs like Oblivion or Dragon age to explain the shit that fumbling around with was not gonna do well in the game.  And it was also better if they had a bit of the game lore in there.

#22 Posted by Curval (63 posts) -

I still read manuals.  I don't care how crap they are I always look through them before I even put the game in the machine.  I know with almost every game having a tutorial level that just straight up tells you everything the manual does it's a pointless task for me to bother reading them.  I agree that this will be the first in a wave of companies that do away with manuals.  I'm one of those people that can't wait for digital distribution to get here.

#23 Edited by spiceninja (3065 posts) -

I never read a manual. Everything you need to know is told to you in a tutorial in the game or as you progress. I think if you have to resort to reading the manual for whatever reason the game has failed.

#24 Posted by Psiman (12 posts) -

I read pretty much all the manuals I get, dont like the fact that they are being removed. handy for reading when you are stuck with controls, when you are on the way home, or just before you play the game.
 
Not liking the fact that ubisoft are removing them to be totally honest

#25 Posted by LordAndrew (14430 posts) -
@PlasmaBeam44: If the game has to explain everything in a tutorial, the game has failed.
#26 Posted by Rhaknar (5939 posts) -

no manuals means i need some new reading material for when i take a shit :/

#27 Posted by theMuse (210 posts) -

So this means games are going to cost like $5 less right? :D
 
 
 
 
 

Right? :D
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
...right? :(

#28 Posted by Skald (4369 posts) -

As I said before: 
 
I can't say I like this, but it does make sense. As digital distribution gets more and more popular, we are going to have to find alternatives to paper manuals.    

#29 Posted by andrewf87462 (569 posts) -

Yeah I definitely think this will catch on with other companies, but now they are saving money by not including the manuals, will the cost of games go down slightly?!?.......I'm gonna guess not.

#30 Edited by Bionicicide (1213 posts) -
@Rhaknar said:

" no manuals means i need some new reading material for when i take a shit :/ "

Oh, yeah, another reason for manuals to die. No "germaphobing"-out when buying used copies since it seems this manual reading on the crapper phenomenon is more common than I thought before today.
#31 Posted by ChristianCastillo (1178 posts) -

I never read the manuals

#32 Posted by Ghostiet (5289 posts) -

I've liked manuals, some had cool artwork, though I miss the times when they were done with passion.

I still remember the first Mafia's manual, looking like an actual newspaper from the 20's.

#33 Posted by DarkGamerOO7 (574 posts) -

Rest in piece manuals, you will be sorely missed.

#34 Posted by bko (131 posts) -

Took long enough. Hopefully others follow suit. (Except Nintendo, which still makes awesome manuals.)

#35 Edited by Yzzerdd (521 posts) -

Ubisoft continues to rub me the wrong way with every bit of press they put out, you aren't doing this to be green you are doing this to save money and using buzz words and celebrities to validate it.
Hey Ubi I bet dudes that pirate everything you put out are super green you should thank them for saving the environment!

#36 Posted by itswrong2bfrench (21 posts) -

And a constant internet connection is required to read Ubisoft's digital manuals...

#37 Posted by lolak47 (232 posts) -

FUCK UBISOFT IN THE ASS

#38 Posted by Kajaah117 (1070 posts) -

I hope this becomes standard. Reading manuals is fun to do when your on your way back from the store or installing the game to the hard drive, but the modern-day game manual is so anorexic that they're really unnecessary. In-game manuals can provide more useful information for less money and could possibly be replaced by more interactive "training rooms" to more efficiently convey the game's mechanics. 
 
If this idea is adopted by other companies I can finally stop being so picky with my used game purchases as well. Not that I ever need the manual, but I still like having it included when I buy a used game. Having it included on the disc means I won't have to worry about that. Box+Disc=Done.  
 
Judging by the consensus so far, the only negative to come from this is that people won't have anything to do while they shit... oh the horror.

#39 Posted by gunslingerNZ (1923 posts) -

Do not care. The only company to ever put a manual out worth reading was Rockstar. It has been quite literally years since I've opened a game manual from any other company.

#40 Posted by billygoat117 (134 posts) -

The only thing I seem to use manuals for anymore is to keep my receipt in the game's case. Seriously though, they seem like such afterthoughts nowadays that I can totally see a lot of companies ditching them just to cut costs.

#41 Posted by Ubiquitous (571 posts) -

You mean to tell me that there will be a whole generation of kids who will not be able to read the game manual on the ride home?!?! JEBUS, what kind of a world do we live in? That was an integral part of my childhood, without those little packets of joy I would never be the man I am today. Ubisoft... I don't know what to say... you sick, indecent, bastards!

#42 Posted by YoungFrey (1321 posts) -

For me, manuals were what you read at the food court before going home to play the game.  I miss the old ones that were different in some way: looking like an operating manual or tour guide.  But they were also often inaccurate too.  Even those good manuals were a lower priority and didn't always reflect the finished game.  Anybody remember Goldeneye's manual talking about using climbing gear?  The internet has made manuals doubly irrelevant too.

#43 Posted by brndedhero (41 posts) -

Games nowadays barely have manuals anyway, look at Modern Warfare 2 that wasn't a manual it was a pamphlet.

#44 Posted by kollay (1934 posts) -

That guy IS stoked.

#45 Posted by AlexeiK (91 posts) -

It's a bit sad, but I can't think of the last game I opened the manual for more than a few seconds. end of an era for sure, I'm assuming  they'll keep them as part of collector's editions though?

#46 Posted by FalcomAdol (189 posts) -

Jeff, been listening to the Joystiq podcast from PAX this morning?
 
I actually like the reduced packaging game cases.  Can't wait until 360 games get cut down to regular Bluray case size.

#47 Posted by boblentil (9 posts) -

This story has inspired me to fondly reminisce about the fine manual that came with F-19 Stealth Fighter.

#48 Posted by Hemlock (80 posts) -

But now where will I write my notes?

#49 Posted by CharlesAlanRatliff (5457 posts) -

I barely ever read manuals anymore. The only one I have recently is Deadly Premonition's, and that is only cause the game is so damn weird! 
 
The last major time I remember reading a manual is Metal Gear Solid 2's on the ride home. I was looking at the characters and saw that I would be playing as some dude named Raiden at some point. I was like, "HUH?!"

#50 Edited by Yzzerdd (521 posts) -

Digital distribution only is something gamers think they want but will ultimately regret it,random xbla/psn games and DLC vanishing for no reason over the last couple months is just a hint of whats in store.
 http://www.joystiq.com/2010/01/06/activision-marvel-ultimate-alliance-2-dlc-on-psn-was-a-limite

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