PS2 game boxes were completely unremarkable because they looked like any other plastic case available at the time, from Xbox games to DVDs. But an earlier design that Sony ended up abandoning was a lot more interesting.
Earlier this year Phil Salvador wrote a fantastic piece about The obscuritor via Hock Wah Yeo, a designer whose wild and weird packaging designs were the best this business has ever seen. If you had been alive in the 90s wandering into video game stores, you would have seen his work and remembered it while playing games like Jet fighter:
and Prince of Persia:
These and many more of his works were unbelievable, and would catch your eye the moment you walk into a store. However, by the end of the decade, the way the video game business had taken place changed and pressures for increased standardization of packaging by retailers and distributors led to the demise of these unique game boxes.
Just as his iconic cardboard creations were disappearing, however, Yeo was hired by Sony for “one last job in the games industry.” In the late 90s, when work on the PlayStation 2 was already well underway, Sony was looking for someone to design the console’s game boxes and asked Yeo to take a shot.
The result was this. Fantastic. Like something a character in a 90s cyberpunk anime would risk their life for, and call it something like a DataCel Disc. As you can see from the size of the disc, the cover was much smaller than we are used to, and the “back” of the case is actually at the bottom. Absolutely impractical, safe, but also damn cool. Unfortunately it shouldn’t be.
“During the production of the prototype, the managers at Sony Computer Entertainment in Japan stepped in and canceled the project,” Salvador writes, “Although he preferred to use the standard DVD case design, which would have been significantly cheaper and easier to use.”
What it was undoubtedly! Still, things like that are enough to make you think, maybe even dream, about a video game industry in which words like “retail standardization” never became as important as “looks really cool”.