We’ve finally received the Nintendo Switch here at Ars’ Oribiting headquarters, and while we don’t have an embargo to tell you anything about the hardware or software at this point, we have to be are allowed to talk about the physical game cartridges and their retail packaging. And when you open your first Nintendo Switch box, one thing immediately catches your eye: there’s a lot of empty space.
Of course, packaging for physical video games has always had a fair amount of empty space. Historically, that’s partly stemmed from a desire to include large instruction booklets and support materials, and partly from a marketing desire to make the product stand out on the shelves (we’re looking at you, big PC games).
That said, the Nintendo Switch packaging takes this trend to a ridiculous extreme. A Switch cartridge measures approximately 31mm x 21mm x 3mm, slightly smaller than a 35mm x 33mm x 4mm 3DS cartridge. That tiny Switch cartridge only takes up about 1 percent of the total volume of its game box (170mm x 104mm x 10mm).
In addition, the box does not contain an instruction booklet, registration card, legal health warning or other material that could use some of that extra space (the original Nintendo DS boxes even used some of that empty space for optional Game Boy Advanced cartridge storage). However, this does not apply to all Switch games; The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth has promised to include a 20-page booklet inspired by it for the original NES Legend of Zelda with its Switch release.
This amount of wasted packaging space is not unprecedented in recent gaming history. A Nintendo 3DS cartridge only takes up about 2 percent of its squarer box. A 2mm Vita cartridge only needed about 0.8 percent of the pack volume. Sega Genesis cartridges, on the other hand, took up about 20 percent of those famous hard plastic “clamshell” boxes from the late ’80s by volume.
It looks worse for the Switch box if you ignore the thickness of the cartridge/box and only look at the parts of their 2D footprints. When viewed from above, the Switch cartridge takes up about 3.7 percent of the box area, compared to 4.7 percent for the Vita, 6.9 percent for the 3DS, and a whopping 33.2 percent for the old Genesis. cartridges. Disc-based console games, while thin, necessarily occupy a significant majority of their box’s 2D footprints.
For a collector who wants to keep their Switch games organized and nicely on a shelf, this extra padding is definitely a good thing (and the 10mm back makes it easy to read game names from the side). The extra space also makes for a fun experimental box art design –The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild box has a reversible insert with a beautiful landscape of Link climbing a rock wall for example.
Wasted space is especially a concern if you’re concerned about all those boxes taking up extra space in your home or eventually clogging up a landfill. However, the shell is made from fully recyclable No. 5 plastic, which should be an eco-friendly helper if consumers are conscientious.
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal (and believe us, we wish we could tell you more about the hardware and software itself without waiting for an embargo). We also realize there’s a limit to how small game packaging can become while still being an effective eye-catcher on brick-and-mortar store shelves (although, when you package a retail Switch game in an even bulkier Amazon shipping box, it gets even more ridiculous. ).
But as game cartridges keep getting smaller and smaller, the game boxes don’t seem to shrink at the same rate, despite the fact that less of the amazing supporting material has been added that characterized games of yesteryear. At this rate, 20 years from now, we’ll be seeing DVD-sized cases for fingernail-sized cartridges that you have to be careful not to accidentally inhale. That is if physical games even exist in 20 years, of course.