Nintendo DS – 2004
Before we get to today’s consoles, we should hit up the current handhelds and see how they’ve changed. The DS, as has been the case with Nintendo products since the SNES, has seen very little alteration in its six years. From the beginning DS games have been in hard plastic cases, marking the end of Nintendo’s affinity for paper boxes – the GBA kept the paper dream alive through 2007 and even 2008, but today, it’s all but gone.
Above: For the sake of having two entries, the Guitar/Band Hero DS games did come in larger-than-usual (and paper) boxes
Above: If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen one thousand
There are also a small number of games (Tornado and Metal Slug come to mind) with case sleeves or slightly thicker cases, but they’re an extreme minority and ultimately boil down to yet another hard plastic case.
PSP – 2005
Sony’s first handheld gaming device hit not long after the DS, but rather than SD-style memory cards, the PSP played games off of Sony’s own UMD technology. So, if it looks like a tiny DVD, makes sense to put it in a tiny DVD case then, right?
Above: PSP cases are smaller and slimmer than a DVD, but they did keep a consistent look, with the PSP name and PlayStation logo along the top
Above: Last year, Sony changed its PSP presentation to mirror the new PS3 look. Compare these two 2009 releases to their earlier counterparts
As with PS2, the only other variations I’ve seen are special editions that Atlus, XSEED and NIS are so fond of. Kinda quiet over here!
Xbox 360 – 2005
The 360 continued the green plastic of its predecessor, and until very recently it even kept the same cover setup, with logos and white along the top. Just this year Microsoft freshened things up with a new header and Kinect-minded swooshes.
Above: From 2005 to 2009, all 360 games had a white bar with radiating circles branching out from the upper right corner, plus a thin green bar separating the box art. Also, some games say “Live,” while others say “Xbox Live”
Above: Just a couple of months ago, 360 games gained a thicker, more vibrant wave reminiscent of the new Kinect brand
Above: Speaking of Kinect, its games come in purple cases, and the aforementioned green Xbox wave has an extra swish of purple too
The new green/purple waves came along with the Xbox 360 Dashboard update, which also altered the system’s startup animation and jingle. At least they’re being thorough…
Nintendo Wii - 2006
Wii finally brought Nintendo in the DVD era (a good six years late, but w/e), and each of those standard discs was housed inside an immaculate, Dreamcast-esque white case.
Above: Wii games have had the same diagonal dip and logo placement since 2006
Above: But wait – some games have a Wii logo inside the case, just above the disc…
Above: … while others do not. I can’t find any consistency here at all – what makes some games worth the logo and others not?
Above: Metroid Prime Trilogy actually shipped in a Steelbook – as far as I know, the only Wii game to do so!
Above: Late 2009 saw “eco friendly” boxes slowly replace standard DVD cases for 360 and Wii. If the back of your game case feels flimsy… it is!
As Wii enters its fifth year, we’d expect rumblings of a new console to be near. But Reggie Fils-Aime says Wii is far from done, so could a packaging remix be far off?
PlayStation 3 - 2006
Finally, we come to the most recent console of our time. With such a strong, consistent look on the PS2, we expected PS3 to maintain whatever imagery Sony gave it on day one. But that’s not what happened at all, as Sony changed the logo and overall box structure last year to coincide with the launch of the PS3 Slim.
Above: The first two years of PS3 looked a bit like the PS1 days, with a sideways logo along the left-hand side. Only now it’s in the Spider-Man font
Above: Last year Sony moved the logo and other branding goodies to the top, more in line with PS2
Above: As with Dreamcast, this leads to a confusing mess on your shelf. Order, people, order!
So there you have it – an entirely too long look at game packaging from the ‘70s to today. See anything you’d never noticed before? Think I missed anything? Always noticed this stuff and can’t believe there’s someone else like you who bothered to write it all down? Let us know!
Big thanks to vgmuseum and wikia gaming for storing so many good box shots! A lot of these are my own, but they helped fill the gaps
No 17, 2010
A brief history of colored game cartridges
One of these things is not like the other
Why Japanese box art is better…
Except when it’s not. Nine astounding differences between East and West
The worst box art of 2009
25 of the year’s ugliest attempts at game packaging