I In The Pyramid

Secrets from inside Steve Jackson Games.
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Bringing Back the Classic Pocket Box

" . . . the 'new look' for all our minigames will be a black plastic box, 4 1/4" x 7 1/4" x 5/8" thick. There will be color labels front and back; inside — well protected — will be the game itself."
- Steve Jackson, "Where We're Going," Space Gamer #48, February 1982

Over the last few years at the Steve Jackson Games office, we have worked to bring some of the classic games from the company's past to today's gamers and collectors. The success of the Ogre Designer's Editon and the Classic Car Wars game, bringing the first new edition of Triplanetary in over three decades to the market, as well as the response to launching The Fantasy Trip on Kickstarter, made it clear that many out there would like to get their hands on those older titles.

"The Pocket Box mold seems to have passed its tests; pre-production samples have been acceptable. The mold is now being shipped to Austin so we can supervise production runs. Box Day still looks like sometime in late February."
- Steve Jackson, "Where We're Going," Space Gamer #49, March 1982

In exploring our back catalog, one game format kept popping up again and again, demanding that we pay it the attention that it deserves. And considering that the packaging format hasn't been in stores since the eighties, there's a chance that many of today's gamers are unfamiliar with the original plastic Pocket Box.

"At long last, we are in full production on the Pocket Boxes. The factory is turning them out, the labels are in, the shrinkwrapper is debugged . . . it all works. Unbelievable."
- Steve Jackson, "Where We're Going," Space Gamer #51, May 1982

The Pocket Box was, for about seven years, the iconic product format of the Steve Jackson Games line. These hard plastic cases, sized to fit the same racks that held paperback books back in the eighties, were everywhere that I went! Visiting game stores, going to a friend's to play games, and even the halls of our school, there was that plastic Pocket Box.

From gallery of PhilReed

Car Wars was my Pocket Box game of choice, and there was no way I was going to let the Sunday Drivers and Truck Stop plastic Pocket Box games not ride alongside the Car Wars box whenever I set out to play. How many hours did we play Car Wars with just that original Pocket Box edition? Hundreds of hours at least, and many more when we add in the other two boxes.

Illuminati. Ogre. Necromancer. Battlesuit. The list of Pocket Box games went on and on when I was a kid, and I would spend far, far too much time looking at the old catalogs and deciding which game I would buy next. I never did get them all -- you know how allowances and neighborhood errands were, right? -- but I lusted after every single one.

In the end, toward the final years of the eighties, my last Pocket Box purchase was Boat Wars, the Car Wars expansion for boats and hovercraft. I would have bought others -- and have, in the years since, picked up a few -- but life got in the way and, in 1989, Steve Jackson Games put an end to the Pocket Box.

Reconstructing the Pocket Box
Recently, while on a trip with our GPI rep to the factories in China, we handed over a copy of the Truck Stop Pocket Box and asked "How tough would it be to reproduce this, as close to the original as possible?" After a lot of discussion and exploration, the decision was made to run a test; leave the Truck Stop box with the factory and let them take a stab at high-res scans of the paper contents.

A month after I returned home from the factory, the Truck Stop test prints arrived . . . and look amazing! Every little piece, from the cover labels to the promotional materials in the box, were faithfully re-created and the test proves that we can bring back the Pocket Box.

From gallery of PhilReed

Moving Forward
Next, we finalize the list of titles and ship copies of all of the Pocket Box games we plan to reproduce to the factory. We'll make minor tweaks to the games -- adding current copyright dates, adjusting the actual box slightly -- but our ultimate plan, if we move forward, is to produce editions of the games that "look just like the ones your mom tossed in the trash when you went to college."

We're at the earliest stages of the Pocket Box project. As the details emerge and our decisions solidify, we'll update the world and, when it is time, announce how to get your hands on reprints of the classic Pocket Box games.

(And finally, if this proceeds as we hope, I can add Battlesuit to my game collection.)

From gallery of PhilReed
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