Whether it’s consoles or the plastic boxes that some of our most beloved games arrive in, there’s no getting away from it: the videogames industry has a plastics problem. A 2019 study conducted by Sports Interactive found that a single video game sleeve contains 55g of plastic. Plastic that could take thousands of years to biodegrade.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel: the industry is waking up to the issue and is working with increasing determination to create a solution.
Back in 2019, Sports Interactive and its parent company SEGA started to dig into the far-reaching impact of plastic used across the sector. They committed to look at alternatives to single-use plastics and plastic packaging. This is challenging as plastic plays a big role in the sector, as Miles Jacobson, studio director of Sports Interactive told Eurogamer: “Plastic is useful. There is plastic in your consoles, your computer, your modem, the cables. Plastic is everywhere. It’s stackable and the cost is well-known.”
Yet, in 2020, Sports Interactive and Sega introduced what is believed to be the first fully recyclable casing: a cardboard sleeve to protect the disk, and pledged to reduce the amount of non-recyclable elements as part of their best-selling Football Manager game packaging. The result? By 2023 their packaging is now 100% recyclable. The box is made from fully recycled cardboard printed with vegetable ink, and, as a result, Football Manager 2023 has a 47% lower carbon footprint than even Football Manager 2022.
Sports Interactive threw down the gauntlet to challenge other studios to reduce their plastic use and now SEGA, Bandai Namco and Ubisoft are looking to see how the learning from Football Manager can be rolled out in other games with a shift from discs to downloadable codes and cardboard cases being explored in the Playing for the Planet Alliance.
Console manufacturers are also exploring different ways to address this issue, with Sony now packaging their PS5s with alternatives to plastic. Kieren Mayers, senior director of Environment, Social and Governance says: “We use pulp cushioning, cardboard instead of plastic windows, cardboard pockets instead of plastic bags, paper cable ties. We are not totally plastic-free yet as it’s still needed to protect the products from scuffing.”