Ubisoft announced today that the company was launching two green initiatives. Starting with the upcoming Shaun White Skateboarding, Ubisoft games will no longer feature paper manuals packed in with the discs. These games will now feature digital manuals accessible within the games' menus. "That is going to provide a huge benefit to the environment, but also to the consumer; having a better gaming experience with an in-game manual," said Rich Kubiszewski, Ubisoft's VP of Operations, "We are forecasting this could be 6 million manuals we could eliminate, with PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, for the rest of the fiscal year. That's about 180 tons of paper, 360 tons of wood, and about 2,300 acres of small forest." It will be up to individual developers making the games how rich the digital manuals will be, with possible uses of interactive illustrations and video.
Second, the company's PC games will ship in a case that is made from 100% recycled polypropylene plastic, as will all future PC titles. "It is the first DVD case in the industry that is 100% recycled," Kubiszewski said. "The cases we previously used were recyclable, but they weren't made from recycled matter." Ubisoft's partner Technimark is creating the cases. "They are taking all of the DVD cases that were going to the landfill, as well as detergent bottles or whatever it may be, something like 40 million tons of recyclable material," Kubiszewski said. The first such PC title, Splinter Cell Conviction, ships April 27; other upcoming titles and new printings of older titles will also feature the recycled case.
So how come Ubisoft isn't moving toward 100% recycled cases for other non-PC cases? "The one thing we can't do with the way we are recycling these materials—they are accepting all kinds of plastic to be recycled," Kubiszewski said. "When you put those into the process, you come out with black or dark gray plastic. You can't dye the plastic to make it white. The only way to really work with Microsoft or Nintendo, and their color-specific cases, would be to only recycle material that was white to make a white case. And that is cost prohibitive at this point. We are in discussions with Nintendo on a DS case. Technimark has met with them several times."
Microsoft and Sony are supporting Ubisoft's green move. "We applaud Ubisoft in this effort. We constantly look for ways to be more efficient, use fewer materials, and always seek continuous improvement while keeping quality up and cost down. Moreover, we have eliminated substances and reduced materials without sacrificing our commitment to consumer safety, innovation and quality," said Microsoft spokesperson David Dennis. Since holiday season of last year and releases like Left 4 Dead 2 and Ubisoft's own Assassin's Creed 2, many Xbox 360 games are using "EnviroShell" cases with 30% less plastic. Nintendo has begun using similar eco-cases for the Wii. Sony is expected to move toward such packaging for PS3 games, with similar Blu-ray cases already in stores. And Sony will be spotlighting the announcement next week at a conference with other game publishers.
These two green initiatives may only be the beginning. Kubiszewski said, "This is just a step toward more future initiatives. We are also looking into other materials, such as corn- or potato-based. The technology isn't quite there yet, the hinges are a little flimsy, but we keep pushing these kind of initiatives." And for the industry at large? "We really anticipate other publishers to follow suit, because this is what the consumer wants."