Football Manager drops plastic boxes as Sports Interactive’s Miles Jacobson challenges industry to cut usage

The upcoming Football Manager 2020 will be released in cardboard packaging, rather than the usual plastic case, to try and make the game’s release as eco-friendly as possible. 

“Due to the current climate emergency, we’ve decided that from here on we will distribute our games in the most environmentally-friendly way that we possibly can”, said Miles Jacobson OBE, studio director of Sports Interactive (SI) – who recently answered our Final Boss questions

Football Manager 2020, due out in November, will be packaged in “100 per cent recycled board and will come with a manual printed on 100 per cent recycled paper, shrink-wrapped in fully recyclable low-density polyethylene (LDPE).” It’s even been printed with a vegetable-based ink. That does of course leave the disc itself but even this “can be repurposed by specialist companies (a list of which will be published on the Football Manager website)”. SI calculates that the new packaging will save roughly 55g of plastic for each physical release, which could add up to 20 tons of plastic packaging over the games full lifecycle. 

We wanted to find a way to change the carbon footprint for both ourselves and our games players without them having to do anything special – so many people out there are making changes to their day to day lives to help fight climate change, but I feel that companies are moving too slowly to be part of the solution,” Jacobson told MCV.

The 20 ton saving is for a PC release too, where most copies are bought digitally, though Jacobsons informs us a sizeable 30 per cent are still sold on disc globally. Even so, imagine the savings if every console title, which sell in huge numbers at retail, switched to such packaging. And so Jacobson hopes that the change motivates others to follow suit.

The announcement today is very much a call to action for not just the games industry, but film and music industries too. If we’re saving 20 tonnes of plastic just from FM20, imagine how much can be saved if all three industries either use the work we’ve done or come up with their own solutions.”

To that end Jacobson has shared the details of the process and the suppliers used to create the new packaging on the Football Manager site

Miles Jacobson, SI
Miles Jacobson, SI

The new design has been carefully considered to make it compatible with existing standards, Jacobson says: “We wanted to keep the dimensions as close to the current packaging specs to avoid the need for retailer re-racking, and also for people who collect boxed games so they don’t look out of place. 

“So the design itself is similar to that of a standard DVD case, just not as wide on the non-spine end of the packaging. The materials themselves were obviously key, as was keeping the DVD in place to limit damage, and a space for the manual. So it was a case of finding the right materials for those specs which I have to give credit to Nat Cooke and Tim Breach at SEGA for working out.”

And Jacobson isn’t worried about a backlash from fans who like their plastic boxes: “I think they’ll be very happy once they’ve seen the package – the dimensions are very similar to previous releases.”

Of course, with all the hardware and electricity used by the industry, packaging is just one part of the equation, though it’s a very visible way of making a first step. And Jacobson has already been considering all the angles for future moves:

“We could all be offsetting our carbon – and the standard way of doing that is to support tree planting. But due diligence is needed on the companies/charities that you’d work with on that. We’re in the process of setting up a project with a charity we know well that, if it works, will not only act as carbon offsetting, but also boost poor economies, and act as peacekeeping. But there’ll be more info on that once it’s properly set up, and we will open that up to the industry and gamers to get involved too.”

“There is a small impact on the bottom line, which we believe is a price worth paying to help secure the planet’s future.”

Of course, the new packaging isn’t as cheap as the typical plastic type, but given the cost of games at retail it’s a surprisingly small figure, around 20c (18p) per unit.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that this new set-up is more expensive than traditional packaging – about 30% more expensive, in fact – but we believe this is a price worth paying. I would ask that anyone involved in the development, creation or production of plastic packaging in any of the entertainment industries should take a look at the many environmentally-friendly options available to them, swallow the extra expense and make the switch.

“There are other savings though – distribution costs and the amount of fuel used would be lowered as it’s lighter than standard packaging. Destruction costs are cheaper as the package can be recycled, rather than thrown in landfill. But there is still a small impact on the bottom line, which we believe is a price worth paying to help secure the planet’s future.”

It’s a sentiment that MCV agrees with completely, for while game packaging might be a reducing issue in the industry, it’s one that’s not going away nearly quickly enough to deal with the climate problems that beset us. 

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