Nintendo Switch Retail Game Packaging Is A Monumental Waste Of Space And Plastic

If for whatever reason you want to make an environmentalist cry, just show them a Nintendo Switch game box with a tiny cartridge still nestled inside. The reason that would be frightening to them is because Nintendo is wasting a lot of space and plastic materials on game cartridges, which take up just a sliver of the entire retail case. Even including box art on the inside flaps can't mask how silly it looks.

I come from an era when computer games came on floppy disks (5.25-inch and later 3.5-inch) and shipped in big boxes. As any old school geek can attest, browsing the aisles of PC games at the local Software Etc. or CompUSA was a euphoric delight that just is not matched by digital distribution platforms such as Steam. As time went on, PC game makers traded big boxes for smaller and thinner packaging, and now most PC games are sold online.

Nintendo Switch Zelda Packaging
Image Source: Arstechnica

To Nintendo's credit, it's starting smaller than those big PC game boxes of yesteryear, though for whatever reason the packaging for Switch games is noticeably bigger than the packaging used for Nintendo 3DS titles. Switch games measure just 31mm x 21mm x 3mm, which is a hair smaller than a 3DS cartridge, yet the retail packaging checks in at 170mm x 104mm x 10mm. In other words, the actual cartridge takes up around 1 percent of the packaging.

We know what you're thinking—sure, the game cartridge takes up just a tiny portion of the overall packaging, but that added space is needed for the game booklet and other paperwork! Well, that's not always the case either. While some games will in fact ship with instruction booklets and other special materials, others won't. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example, does not include any extra goodies—no instruction manual, no warranty card, no legal mumbo-jumbo, nothing.

Nintendo Switch and Sega Genesis Packaging
Image Source: Arstechnica

Nintendo is not the only culprit when it comes to wasteful packaging. Sony's game boxes for Vita titles were grossly oversized, as were the clamshell cases that Sega Genesis cartridges shipped in back in the day.

On the bright side, the casing for Nintendo Switch games is made from fully recyclable No. 5 plastic. The No. 5 rating means it's made from polypropylene (PP), which is a thermoplastic polymer known for being durable, resistant to heat, and acting as a barrier to moisture. It is the same type of plastic that is commonly used to make containers for yogurt and medications.