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Subject: Shipping boxes with lots of air is bad for the environment/climate rss

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Boaty McBoatface
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RSP?
 
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Chad Ellis
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As a publisher I find this incredibly frustrating.

Big boxes are wasteful on many levels. They consume more materials. They take up more space and so require more fuel for transport and storage. The problem is that players absolutely prefer and pay more for them.

One of the games I publish, The Battle for Hill 218, retails for $10. It's a deck of cards, and part of the appeal is that that's all you need. I spoke with some retailer friends of mine about whether I should consider doing a non-military retheme and their preference was that whether I change the theme or not I should put it in a larger box -- like a typical Kosmos 2-player game. The Hill card could be replaced with a larger component (say, a plastic hill) and the MSRP could be $20 instead of $10. One retailer in particular said he would sell significantly more copies of it if it were packaged as a $20 game in a larger box.
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True Blue Jon
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How are bigger boxes bad for the environment? Is that assuming they aren't recycled?
 
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Eric Pietrocupo
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Quote:
One of the games I publish, The Battle for Hill 218, retails for $10. It's a deck of cards, and part of the appeal is that that's all you need. I spoke with some retailer friends of mine about whether I should consider doing a non-military retheme and their preference was that whether I change the theme or not I should put it in a larger box -- like a typical Kosmos 2-player game. The Hill card could be replaced with a larger component (say, a plastic hill) and the MSRP could be $20 instead of $10. One retailer in particular said he would sell significantly more copies of it if it were packaged as a $20 game in a larger box.


Games are already expensive, why artificially increase their size and price. That some what explains why lost cities has a box so big,

Anyways, I made a geeklist a while ago about big boxes that waste space. It's open for everybody to submit

Big Boxes that waste space

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Josh
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I am always a bit baffled at the (apparent) lack of thought that goes into boxing games. There are 'industry standards' I get that, but seriously. Insert arrangement/storage solutions seem to be painfully inadequate in almost all the games I've bought. I have to think I'm missing some big element of it all to explain why it's such an under-developed aspect of game production.
 
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Dwayne Hendrickson
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There was a Paper Money podcast that spoke about this at length, especially concerning Race for the Galaxy.
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Scott Russell
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I will say that sometimes the deck boxes that just barely hold the cards can be annoying after the cards have been played a few times.*

So I don't mind a little air in shipment, but agree that many games ship way too much.


* and don't even get me started on sleeving**

** which I don't do unless "pasting up" cards in English.
 
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True Blue Jon
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2097 wrote:
quozl wrote:
How are bigger boxes bad for the environment? Is that assuming they aren't recycled?


You can ship more smaller boxes in the same vehicle so there is less travel per item.


That's what I was missing! Thanks!
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Chad Ellis
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2097 wrote:
quozl wrote:
How are bigger boxes bad for the environment? Is that assuming they aren't recycled?


You can ship more smaller boxes in the same vehicle so there is less travel per item.


Just for illustration -- a case of Succession holds six copies. A case of Battleground: Punic War holds forty copies and is slightly smaller. That means that shipping a copy of Succession takes up about seven times as much space (and therefore fuel*). That's when it ships from the printers, when it ships to the distributor, to the retailer and (if ordered by mail) to the customer.

Now Succession didn't waste a lot of space. It has a full-sized main board, five player boards, token sheets, a deck of cards and a few other components. But companies are encouraged to take a game like Battleground, add some components that aren't really needed and then package it in a big box. Some games that could be made in a Battleground-sized box are coming in a much larger box.

In addition, those larger boxes often require filler, e.g. injection-molded plastic inserts.






* Yes, fuel is also partly dependent on weight, so it may be only 5-6x
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True Blue Jon
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Maybe you should package Battleground in something similar to Magic's Fat Packs. You'd be giving fans a storage box and giving retailers more shelf space.
 
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Josiah Fiscus
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If a slightly bigger box consumes more resources, but also has consumers paying more, it seems like there would be a point of balance here. I'm trying not to be overly political here, but it seems like the case is being made that ALL commerce is necessarily a negative, because the more things are transported, the worse it is for the environment.
 
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Maybe big boxes sell better, but fot avid game maniacs like me it means that I won't buy many games anymore - I simply ran out of space.
 
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I like the long skinny boxes (like Monopoly). Not a lot of wasted space, great shelf space, and fits efficiently on shelves. I'm not sure why modern designer games have moved away from that box size.
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Chad Ellis
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happyjosiah wrote:
If a slightly bigger box consumes more resources, but also has consumers paying more, it seems like there would be a point of balance here. I'm trying not to be overly political here, but it seems like the case is being made that ALL commerce is necessarily a negative, because the more things are transported, the worse it is for the environment.


I don't think that's the case at all. I'm a big fan of commerce.

What I don't like is when cognitive bias (rather than utility) leads to wasteful behavior. A lot of games could easily ship in a box half the size of what's used while still leaving ample room for components, box graphics, etc. They don't, because stores and publishers have learned that an efficient box causes players to think it should cost less and a big fat box "justifies" a higher price.

All this is made tricky by the fact that one person's cognitive bias is another person's genuine preference. Some people presumably get more value out of a larger box, if from nothing else than the way their game collection looks displayed on bookshelves. (I'm reminded of a company that kept using value-engineering to make lighter and lighter remote controls until someone market-tested a remote with weight added and almost all their customers preferred it. It was "waste" and on paper made the product worse but the visceral experience of using a hefty remote control was very real.
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Chad Ellis
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quozl wrote:
I like the long skinny boxes (like Monopoly). Not a lot of wasted space, great shelf space, and fits efficiently on shelves. I'm not sure why modern designer games have moved away from that box size.


A few educated guesses:

Peer pressure. OK, not exactly, but it's very common for a product segment to develop a certain expected look in the minds of consumers. Long skinny boxes hold mass-market games like Candyland and Sorry; weighty Euros come in shorter, thicker boxes.

Shelf display. On a related note, most hobby game store shelves are designed for the games that are out there. A long, thin box might be awkward to display.

Structural integrity. I suspect it's easier to design a "Euro" box that holds up to wear than a Monopoly style box.

Mostly peer pressure.
 
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Kelsey Rinella
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The problem is the time cost of games. I enjoy pimping games in a variety of ways, particularly those which make setup faster, largely because the the cost of doing so is minimal in comparison to the expenditure of rare and precious gaming time. While I enjoy the authorship of that process and the connection to my games I feel as a result, there's clearly some attraction to buying a game which comes essentially pre-pimped. A bigger box suggests to buyers that the game is meaty and lots of effort has gone into providing the best experience possible. Some people seem to be assuming that people like larger boxes in themselves, rather than because of the message those boxes send about what's inside; this strikes me as odd.

It IS a pernicious bias, but I've never seen a good solution. The Game of Thrones LCG is my favorite offender--I actually find the game less easily playable if you use the included board and figurines. But I don't blame them for wanting to sell it that way, especially since many potential customers will have an association with card-based games of necessary further investment to enjoy the game. Putting it in a bigger box makes it look more like a board game which can stand on its own.

Can anyone think of games which come in small boxes which effectively communicated that they were worth pushing bigger-boxed games off the table for? Tichu might be the best example I can think of, because it seems old and that longevity suggests quality and depth. I keep hoping the Black Box edition of Glory to Rome will accomplish the same goal, though so far as I know mine has yet to arrive at my local game shop.
 
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Chad Ellis
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rinelk wrote:
While I enjoy the authorship of that process and the connection to my games I feel as a result, there's clearly some attraction to buying a game which comes essentially pre-pimped. A bigger box suggests to buyers that the game is meaty and lots of effort has gone into providing the best experience possible. Some people seem to be assuming that people like larger boxes in themselves, rather than because of the message those boxes send about what's inside; this strikes me as odd.


I don't think it's "I like big boxes" but I don't think it's a rational inference about pre-pimping, either. Certainly some boxes do a great job of this -- including a strong insert with well-considered spaces for components after the game has been opened, but in many cases this is overwhelmed with simple empty space.

Quote:
It IS a pernicious bias, but I've never seen a good solution.


Me neither, although BGG certainly helps. Hill 218 has just sold out it's second print run -- not bad for a simple tuck-box game. Ultimately it will come down to customers.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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quozl wrote:
I like the long skinny boxes (like Monopoly). Not a lot of wasted space, great shelf space, and fits efficiently on shelves. I'm not sure why modern designer games have moved away from that box size.


As far as I know - those were never popular in Europe.
Reason being that they stack horizontally meaning that if you want to play the box at the bottom of the pile, you have to lift and balance the rest of the pile while you pull it out.
A bookshelf shaped boxes (like old Avalon Hill ones or Alea games etc...) stack vertically on a bookshelf and you can pull any given one out without any problem from the rest of them.

Square boxes like Chaos in the Old World or 7 wonders are a bit annoying because they look like they should stack similarly to the Alea ones on a bookshelf but are - generally - just a bit too deep for the shelf designed for books. Even so they are more practical when stacked horizontally then a bunch of skinny ones on top of each other.

EDIT:
Essentially old North American packaging was good when only people having to worry about stacking were retailers stacking lots of copies of the same game and the purchasers would have a few games at most and lots of space to store them.
If you have a "game collection" of even as much as dozen or two games they become pain in the ass.
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Kelsey Rinella
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2097 wrote:
Is there some geeklists about that? Main course games in small boxes.


Good thought! I should have checked.
 
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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I think storage is also (albeit in opposite way) problem with small games like the ones you make Chad.
They can not stack with the larger boxes in any meaningful way so they get relegated either to some sort of a drawer or to a generic "box of lots of card games".
That means that they will only be pulled if you think of looking into cards box rather then just glancing at the shelf.
To me - ideal packaging size for a card game is something like the expansion boxes for 7 wonders. Relatively small and thin but still bulky enough not to look stupid taking its own spot on a bookshelf next to the other games. Why the original 7 wonders did not come in that sort of box (maybe double wide ?) is a mystery to me (unless it was just to price it by volume).
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Chad Ellis
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bramadan wrote:
I think storage is also (albeit in opposite way) problem with small games like the ones you make Chad.
They can not stack with the larger boxes in any meaningful way so they get relegated either to some sort of a drawer or to a generic "box of lots of card games".


Very true. With Hill 218 the tradeoff is that a lot of people like it as a travel game. I think I've had between ten and twenty people tell me personally that it's pretty much always in their backpack so they break it out any time they have ten free minutes. This leads to a lot of new exposure (the ten free minutes is often with someone who hasn't payed it yet) that it wouldn't get if it were packaged for bookshelf presence. Nevertheless, it's a problem -- just look for it in the BGG library, for example.

It's quite likely that if I do a retheme it will be in a somewhat larger box. The 7 Wonders expansion is a pretty good one, as you say. In that case I'll probably create a nice-looking component for the Hill but also include an equivalent card and package the cards in a tuck-box within the game itself. That way anyone who just wants it for travel can do so.
 
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Josiah Fiscus
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2097 wrote:
happyjosiah wrote:
If a slightly bigger box consumes more resources, but also has consumers paying more, it seems like there would be a point of balance here.


Network externalities, like environmental impact, tends to be a bit of a blind spot (not completely) on markets and pricing.


Right, which is why even for a free-trade-lover like me, I favor environmental regulations.

If there ARE NOT regulations in place that sufficiently penalize manufacturers for the environmental cost of "pointless size wasting", that's an issue with the law, not with the manufacturers.

If there ARE regulations in place that pass those costs to the manufacturers, then they will in turn pass those costs on to the consumer. The consumer will have a point where they decide, even unconsciously, that the extra expense of a large box just isn't worth it.

As it stands, if the manufacturer is able to charge more for a large box, and the consumer is happier to have it, there is no impetus for anyone to change short of regulations. Write your congressperson, not your board game company.
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How else am I going to insulate the walls of my house? Those pockets of air keep my house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Don't listen to all these deniers.
 
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Shadrach wrote:
I am always a bit baffled at the (apparent) lack of thought that goes into boxing games. There are 'industry standards' I get that, but seriously. Insert arrangement/storage solutions seem to be painfully inadequate in almost all the games I've bought. I have to think I'm missing some big element of it all to explain why it's such an under-developed aspect of game production.


Among the issues:
It needs to handle both unpunched and punched states.
It needs to be cheap.
It may need to be used in more than one game.

I agree that even so, some inserts fail even those tests (the most notorious being Mesopotamia). But it's not trivial.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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2097 wrote:
Are you being sarcastic?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change_mitigation

BTW, replies like these is why I posted this in RSP instead of the thread I first wrote it for (a game whose second edition is coming out in a box with more air than the first edition box has).


What BJ will probably tell you is that it is difficult to actually cost this particular externality.
Also - if big boxes cause negative externality by requiring more shipping trips per unit (and that shipping trips are not as expensive as the damage they ostensibly cause) that externality is best captured by tax on gasoline (or road-tolls, or whatever you want to use as a general capture of externality on driving).

I would bet that under any reasonable gas tax regime you would still end with the modern-shaped boxes (after all they originated in EU where gas (and therefore shipping trips) cost *significantly* more then what it does in US.
It is quite possible that people prefer the half empty boxes sufficiently to actually be willing to pay for the (slim) environmental damage they cause.
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