A Simple Question: Game Instruction Manuals

There’s no denying that gamers love their technology.  Being able to stream video games, download extra game content, or watch movies online is something that we almost take for granted now, and was pretty unfathomable 10 years ago.  As we move towards a more digital delivery service (and 75% of you think we will be either mostly or all digital 10 years from now), we begin to adjust what we expect to receive for our money.  With digital downloads, we generally don’t get a physical copy of the game, which means no box, no box art, no collectibles…

And no instruction manual.

Now, I know not everyone reads instruction manuals.  I rarely read one before-hand unless I’ve bought the game at work, and need something to read while .. well.. when I need something to read.  But I do end up reading all of the booklets at some point.  Many are run of the mill, but some stand out (Assassin’s Creed’s first one was basically written as an instruction manual for the Animus, complete with developer’s notes in the margins).  The problem is, companies are already getting rid of instruction manuals in lieu of having an online document, and this is in the physical games I’m purchasing.  My new Assassin’s Creed Revelations was nothing more than a glorified post card telling me where to go for the manual online.  It begs the question:

Do you care that games are moving their instruction manuals online?

(You may need to refresh the page to see the poll)

Now, I know that having a manual online (or even in game) can allow for more flexibility in how the information is presented, and can probably be more robust and interactive than a physical booklet that has to fit within the dimensions of a game box.  But I like not having to be connected to anything to learn a little bit more about the game. I like being able to be immersed in my game before I can actually play it.  I guess it’s like my preference to reading some physical magazines over digital ones; I’m more connected when I can hold something in my hands.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be moving this feature away from gamers.  What do you think? Vote above, and leave a comment below!

View previous ASQ: Physical Or Digital Game Copies – View next ASQ: Difficulty Settings

A Simple Question (ASQ) is a weekly segment for Platform Nation.  Give a response and let the world know what you think; there is no right or wrong answer here. If you have a suggestion for a question, hit me up on twitter @vttym.


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  • NOEN

    I totally agree. I look forward to reading through the booklet before I actually play the game. It kind of gets me pumped up to play the game. I hate opening up a game and it just has a disc and a leaflet in there.

  • I voted “No” on this, even though my heart is more like “Yes, I loved manuals, in the past, but I don’t think we’ll ever go back to that.” I don’t think it’s a bad thing, either.

    For every person says “I really loved my old flight sim manual!” there are 5 people who complain “Why can’t the game just tell me how it works from within? What year is this again??”

    And so, partly from my frustration that We can never be satisfied with any course of action, and partly from my belief that game makers are justified in pursuing the truly value-added parts of their product, I vote No. “I don’t care,” because nobody is paying for the manuals.

    Expanded documentation is available in Collector Editions, etc., so maybe that’s a good place for the extra expenditure to be used to beef up the manuals.

  • I voted “no” for a couple of reasons: 
    First being the ever-so-popular “I’m an adult, so I don’t have to sit in the back seat on the car ride home anymore, and I don’t need the manual for that 15 minutes of entertainment after my mom drives me to the store.”
    Second reason is that it’s kind of freeing knowing that there’s one less thing to keep track of. I remember back when I was working retail, the price difference between a complete copy of DragonBall GT and one that was missing the manual was $100! Can you imagine finding out that the manual your idiot friend spilled his coffee on turned out to be worth $100?
    The last reason is that my overall game experience has changed. If I have a question about a game, I’d rather pull up a menu than fish out a book. Chances are that the devs can fit a lot more information into the in-game help manual than a 15 page leaflet that can be fit into a jewel case. And let’s be honest with ourselves: any artwork or screenshots that are in the manual have already been online fore months prior to the game’s release, so how much more pumped are you really going to get by looking at the same pictures in the manual?

    I would like to see the return of some of the old pack-ins though. It would be nice to get a poster or a “what’s coming” catalog in more games.

  • Anonymous

    If the question was about old manuals I might vote “yes” to keep them. But… 90% of games now have like a 2-3 page black and white “thing” poorly stapled together. They already skim so much they might as well get rid of them altogether.