EA Abandons Printed Game Manuals as 3D Paper Printing Debuts

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Electronic Arts just got a little greener and its retail footprint a trifle leaner. The world’s largest video games publisher says it’s finally pulling the plug on printed game manuals, making it–not the first, but certainly the largest games publisher to bid those little black-and-white pamphlets sayonara.

They weren’t always as slender and bland. Think back a couple decades. Remember when publishers shipped games in puzzle-sized boxes? With fat spiral-bound tomes, stylish decoder wheels (twentieth-century DRM!), and those lovely little hangable cloth maps? A moment of silence, please.

Not to worry, EA isn’t scotching game manuals outright, it’s just swapping in all-digital versions. Print if you like, drop on your mobile reader for browsing on-the-go, or just bring them up off the game’s main menu and pause screens direct. The upside, says EA, is that the move reduces printed packaging materials by 40 percent.

I’d say something about the move freeing EA’s hand to craft jumbo manuals, but it’s the wrong reaction. I haven’t read a game manual in ages–not even as a reference point. If today’s games can’t show me how to play, or why, or where to find stuff, or what it means, it’s a failure of design. Manuals were workarounds for gaming’s crude-looking, memory-limited relics. Today’s games teach you how to play as you play, and show you how instead of telling.

If you’re less concerned about saving the trees, commercial researcher Mcor Technologies is up to its armpits in paper, but it’s not what you think. You’ve heard of 3D printing? Printers that can replicate in all three dimensions any reasonably complex 3D object you’ve conjured in your head?

The technology’s been around for awhile, churning out everything from earrings to dental components to automotive parts and allowing innovators to proof ideas quickly, and without turning to special manufacturing processes. Still, the materials necessary to feed the machines tend to be pricey.

Enter paper. I don’t mean specialty paper, but the ordinary sort you can pick up at the office supply store down the street. According to New Tech Post, Mcor figured out how to get it working–specifically, how to get it to stick together in the print-assembly process–without “blistering.”

The result? Scan that shot up top again, because you’re looking at it.

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