Video game instruction manuals are relics of retro games, but times have changed and deserve to be completely replaced by tutorials.
Once upon a time in video game history, learning to play a new title was similar to building a piece of furniture. Instruction manuals hidden in the covers of each Nintendo the game and the PC box were the only sources of information on how to get started. Today, this classic practice has slowly faded to a point where players will have a hard time finding manuals within the physical copy of many modern games. While the death of game manuals may be a disappointment for nostalgia seekers, it is the best for publishers, developers, and consumers.
Certain game manuals are so rare today that collectors will pay big bucks for classic Nintendo titles that come with perfectly good manuals. The instruction booklets of yesteryear have become relics of a different gaming era that modern gaming companies have left behind. They cost extra money for publishers to print, developers have to spend time making sure they’re clear and concise, and players may not even receive them due to how most titles are purchased today. For those reasons, the instruction manuals had to disappear and be completely replaced by in-game tutorials.
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The manuals require players to extract information from a sheet of paper and then test it on the screen, while the tutorials do everything on screen. Introductory levels that guide players through the basic controls of a game can be a completely seamless experience that allows them to learn through trial and error. Certain games, like Valve’s Portal 2, they have designed their tutorials so well that they don’t even feel like a lesson, but a natural part of the game’s progression. Requiring users to refer to a sheet of paper breaks the dive and can get frustrating, but that’s not even the main reason publishers have stopped printing manuals.
The death of the game manuals is imminent
Thanks to high-speed internet and online gaming platform markets like Steam and PlayStation Store, obtaining a physical copy of a title is completely optional. Players can choose to download their game rather than buy a cartridge or disc, which means they wouldn’t even have a chance to receive a manual. Sales of digital games outnumbered physical sales in 2020 for the first time, and while the COVID-19 pandemic played a big role in driving downloads, it was destined to happen eventually.
Digital copies allow die-hard fans to play a game they’ve been waiting for the second it’s released. In previous years, consumers had to queue at stores or hope they could receive it on the exact day of launch. Publishers could still try to calculate how many physical copies they will sell and print manuals for them, but with most developers as Nintendo including tutorials anyway, getting rid of manuals is a natural way for businesses to cut unnecessary costs. Instruction manuals may be artifacts from the early years of gaming, but modern titles have rendered them almost completely useless. The brochures in the game cases are running out, and have a good trip.
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