For sale: Big box full of nothing, yours for £50

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For sale: Big box full of nothing, yours for £50

The real scandal of the gaming industry: Why the hideous waste?

The computer games market has been touted as one of the most wasteful in the UK when it comes to excess packaging and selling – in effect – empty boxes.

That’s the opinion of the UK’s waste and recycling company, which says that the industry is the number one culprit when it comes to big empty boxes of nothing.

According to, the games industry has got to the point where customers are buying boxes that contain nothing but a download code, meaning that 100% of the packaging is thrown away.

“It’s hard to think of a product which creates so much waste,” says spokesperson Mark Hall, himself a seasoned gamer.

“I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” he says, “A huge box which promises so much, yet it contains nothing but a disc or game cartridge. Or – of course – a postcard-sized piece of paper.”

With high-speed internet being virtually universal in the UK, some games producers are selling computer games in boxes containing nothing but a download code. And that, says, York’s Business Waste is just about the worst case of wasteful over-packaging they’ve ever seen.

“You can see how they’ve thought this through,” says Hall, “They still need a physical presence for their game in the High Street shops, but you don’t actually buy a physical product.

“Just a fancy box with the download instructions on a piece of paper inside. But the waste is just mind-boggling!”

With the UK games industry currently worth £4.2bn per year, and the production of new games higher than ever, producers are finding it a challenge to capture the eyeballs of the game-buying public with their latest electronic offerings.

“The fact is that you need the brightly coloured box to attract the punters’ attention,” Hall says. “With buyers prepared to spend £50 or more on top games, it doesn’t matter if the packaging is virtually empty.

“But that’s always been the way in the world of retail, hasn’t it?”

Well… not exactly.

While most retail sectors are working hard to reduce their packaging waste, it seems that booming game producers seem to be in their own world where bigger and brighter is better, says Business Waste.

It’s an industry that is driven by publicity and the anticipation of the “next big thing”, to the level that advertising and publicity spend rival that of the Hollywood studios. Business Waste recognises that the end product should be seen as something worth buying – but not to the point that it is 100% disposable.

“But that’s really no excuse,” says Hall. “The latest Blu-Ray movie releases come packaged in a case that’s much smaller than the standard DVD box, and that’s the way games should be heading.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to put up with this kind of waste.”

However, it’s hard to force the industry to think again, and any change needs to be consumer-led, says.

“Customers need to tell the producers they don’t need a box containing nothing but a download code,” says Mark Hall. “They just want the download code, and they want it to work the first time.

“Is that too much to ask?”

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