When I got the Nintendo Switch last year, one thing that really hit me was the disappearance of the printed instruction manuals. The "instruction booklet" as officially called by Nintendo has long been a part of their video game packaging since the original NES was released.
If you look at the manuals from past games, such as Super Mario World for the Super NES, the manual is almost like a mini-guide, outlining the story of the game, along with detailed instructions to guide you on your journey, it was 30 pages in all! Video game manuals were serious business, and they were a work of art!
On the Wii U, earlier releases still included the traditional printed manuals, with basic instructions and nice graphics - they have noticeably started to become increasingly flimsy. Later in the cycle, games have stopped including the print manual altogether, instead having a "quick start" or "action guide" pamphlet card at best. All games came with a digital in-game manual - but it was unintuitive and clunky to read. However, one major advantage of the in-game manual is that you can navigate to the manual at any time by hitting the home button on the Wii U GamePad.
Towards the end of the Wii U release cycle, even the printed cards have started to disappear. On the Nintendo Switch, even the digital manuals have gone the wayside too. The tiny transparent game cases for Nintendo Switch games come with some fancy art inside or very basic of instructions printed on the back cover, and for some games, it's literally blank space. The cases are nice for storing and displaying your video games, but it's seriously barebones compared to how it used to be.
In March, Nintendo published Lego City Undercover. They included a skimpy printed instruction manual that included an ad for legos and a URL through which players could take a Lego survey and maybe get a cheat code. The digital manual for the game was a sorry sight:
That marked the end of them putting instruction manuals in game boxes, but it also seemed to mark the beginning of Nintendo making attractive digital manuals. The Game & Wario one below is a leap ahead. You can see more effort being made to establish an attractive, unifying aesthetic that suits the game. Some pages:
In early August, Nintendo released three pieces of software for Wii U: Pikmin 3, Art Academy: Sketchpad and Animal Crossing Plaza. Only the first of those is an actual video game. And only that one had a physical release that could have come with an instruction manual. All three had digital manuals, and while none were as good as the Wario one, they did show signs of improvement from late 2012 and early 2013:
I understand that, for some people, a digital video game instruction manual will never be a sufficient replacement for a printed one. I also get that manuals serve less and less of a useful function in an age when games can easily include tutorials within their own levels. 781b155fdc