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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Substitution of Cases for Video Game Disc Media

In preparing to go large-scale with video games and especially on the expectation that some online aggregation system is likely a-brewing, I recently took a look at disc media cases to see what the outlook was for improving the condition of high-value games and making low-value games look better out of the box for general audiences.

It goes without saying that any marketplace-tied sellers are going to be expected to provide authentic cases.  However, what happens if the authentic original is generic, and no different from a substitute?  Well, let's take a look.

Here are empty cases, made in China.  Even if I never use them to substitute, they are still useful.  They can be used with printed liners as shelf proxies for shopping and you keep the real games backstage; I think this is ultimately their strongest use.  When you have a loose copy of the game, just having it in the proper color and type of case can make a good buyer impression, even if you don't have a liner.  But can they substitute?

First, let's look at Sony.  Here is an empty Amaray (DVD standard) case next to a Playstation 2 game.
As you can see, this will not substitute at all.  Most PS2 games use this case type with an offset-low spindle and a slot for the memory card that mostly never got used.  There are still things you can do here to add value; if you have a $500 Rule of Rose with a thrashed case full of dog bites, Gamestop stickers, and a broken spine, absolutely buy a $5 factory-sealed copy of some old sports game and swap the (identical, first-party) case over.  But there is zero substitution of standard Amaray cases to pass as PS2 originals here.
Not to mention the endless variations of games with multiple discs.  Even if you're going to swap authentic parts, you need a matching part.  Good luck with that.  It's still possible, of course.

PLAYSTATION 2: NO.

What about its successor?  Playstation 3 used a clear translucent blu-ray case.  Here is a generic version next to a real game:
 Uh-oh, what's that on the top band?
The Playstation logo has to be there on any game that was packaged that way, meaning no substitution.  A shame, because the interior was a dead-on match, including having no Sony-branded fine print or anything:
But wait!  Not all Playstation 3 games have the embossed logo on their cases!  Here is a factory-sealed game that does not have it!
And just to show it was no fluke, here is a factory-sealed, brand-new Greatest Hits series PS3 game with no embossed logo, though of course you'd need a solid red blu-ray case.
So for any PS3 title that does not have the embossed logo on its case, it appears the blank cases are fully substitutable without having any effect on authenticity.

PLAYSTATION 3: SOMETIMES.

What about the newest generation, Playstation 4?  The good thing was the case has no distinguishing attributes.  No embossed logo, neither on used games nor new factory-sealed games.  No fine print of note.  It should be possible to substitute here.  The bad thing is that these particular substitutes are actually made with the spindle offset low!  So if I can find better substitutes, we may be in business:
Can you believe this?  It's dead-on match externally.
 So this one is going to rate a green light, but you have to get the right materials.

PLAYSTATION 4: YES, PROVIDED THE SUBSTITUTE ACTUALLY MATCHES.

I looked into the Playstation Vita and unfortunately I did not have any used complete to test, only loose cards and new-in-box software.  No distinguishing characteristics appear on the outside, and I Googlenetted up some photos and there appears nothing on the inside.  I'm going to call this a qualified yes.
I'm going to call this a qualified yes.

PLAYSTATION VITA: YES, PROBABLY, CHECK YOUR ORIGINAL.
PLAYSTATION PORTABLE: N/A (I was unable to find a substitute case.)

Let's take a quick look at the Playstation 1, given that it used jewel cases for most of its system lifespan.  The early "tall boy" cases are clearly not substitutable.  But later?
There's a generic case, and now the inside of Vandal Hearts, where you can see a Playstation logo in the center and obviously we cannot use any substitute whatsoever for that.
Also, with many games in the PS1 catalog being multi-disc and various different jewel case configurations for single- and multi-disc games alike, I think we're not close here.
So we have a hard "no" for the granddaddy of disc-only console games.

PLAYSTATION 1: NO.

Those generic jewels might yet be useful for other systems, but we will have to evaluate it case-by-case and see how well it matches.  Turbografx is no good as they used custom cases.  Sega CD and Sega Saturn in the U.S. used "tall boy" cases.  But Saturn Japan, Neo Geo CD, and Dreamcast:
This one is not a match for Crazy Taxi 2 and I would not use it as a substitute.  But my guess is there was likely enough production variation that you will find exact and permissible matches from generic substitute cases for "standard CD" packaging.

SEGA CD: NO.
SEGA SATURN USA: NO.
SEGA SATURN JAPAN: SOMETIMES.
SEGA DREAMCAST: SOMETIMES.
NEO GEO CD: SOMETIMES.
TURBOGRAFX SERIES: NO.

Switching now to Nintendo, we have basically zero substitute ability across the line.  Here is a generic Nintendo DS game case.  Mostly pretty accurate, right?
Except oh wait, the embossed logo.  Well, so much for that.
It was a little clearer that we were out of luck in the 3DS generation, as the case has more differences (no "air holes" as well as the logo absence).
 Yeap.
 So I'm going to call these both a hard "no" for substitute cases matching authentics.

NINTENDO DS: NO.
NINTENDO 3DS: NO.

The home systems are just as inimitable.  Check out an Amaray DVD standard case next to a Gamecube standard single-disc case:
And that's an easy one!  Memory card slot, small disc spindle, official logo.  None of this is going to show up on a substitute case, so there's no substitution whatever here.
That's without even considering multi-disc games, some of which have a top/bottom spindle in a single-width case, a configuration not seen anywhere else at all.

NINTENDO GAMECUBE: NO.

How about the Gamecube's much more successful... successor?  At first glance, it looks good.  The substitute cases, aside from being excessively shiny, look very similar.  But oh...
It's an embossed logo, which is the end of that inquiry.  If your original factory-sealed game you are certain does not have an embossed logo, maybe you can substitute freely.  I am going to say that probably isn't happening here.
Nor is it happening on the Wii U, as you can see here on Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo, ever on lockdown, and no surprise here they do the same for packaging.  You need authentic original material, and substitutes will not do.

NINTENDO WII: NO.
NINTENDO WII U: NO.
NINTENDO SWITCH: N/A (I was unable to find a substitute case.)

Finishing up with Microsoft, we've got better news, but not right away.  As you can see, the Xbox One has an embossed and colored logo right there on the case top, and there is no substituting a blank band for that.
In this case the substitute didn't get the texture right anyway, so even without that logo I would not have felt comfortable subbing in a generic case for the X-Bone.

XBOX ONE: NO.

Not much luck with my existing generics with the Xbox 2001 either, except that there's no reason it couldn't be; the original cases have no apparent embossed logo, trademark text, or other characteristics that imitation cases would have to omit.  If you can find cases that match, you should be able to use them.
Again, for multi-disc games you're on your own, but as you can see, there's nothing strange going on here.
For the Platinum Hits series, you'd need to source the correct color of case, as you can see, but once again there's no infringing element to fail on.
So I'm going to call this a qualified "yes" like I did for the PS4.

XBOX (2001): YES, PROVIDED THE SUBSTITUTE ACTUALLY MATCHES.

The Xbox 360 is where we really hit paydirt.  You can't see it as clearly in the photo because the sub case is very shiny and there's no paper behind it, but it's very, very similar, close to identical.
Here is a closer look where you can see only some variation on the interior spindle, and even that may not be consistent across versions.  I'm not sure it stops a substitution here, for most titles.
Of course, you need to take into account multi-disc games with tabs...
And multi-disc games with a multi-disc spindle...
And you'll need grape purple for the Kinect games...
But thanks to the lack of embossed logos or marks and the apparent standardization of manufacture, most Xbox 360 cases appear to be the same as generics, and substitution is likely to be possible in many cases.  When in doubt, research the title!  But I feel good about a Mostly Yes here, which I'll downgrade slightly to match the PS3 that shared this system's generation.

XBOX 360: SOMETIMES.

Let's wrap it all up with our conclusions and I'll let that be it for the week.

IS THE ORIGINAL DISC MEDIA CASE FROM THIS SYSTEM SUFFICIENTLY GENERIC THAT A GENERIC CASE CAN BE USED WITHOUT LOSING AUTHENTICITY?

3DO: NO, MOSTLY ("Tall Boy" boxes regardless of CD jewel cases).
ATARI JAGUAR CD: I HAVE NO IDEA.
NEO GEO CD: SOMETIMES.
NINTENDO DS: NO.
NINTENDO 3DS: NO.
NINTENDO GAMECUBE: NO.
NINTENDO SWITCH: N/A (I was unable to find a substitute case.)
NINTENDO WII: NO.
NINTENDO WII U: NO.
PHILIPS CD-I: SHRUG EMOTICON.
PLAYSTATION 1: NO.
PLAYSTATION 2: NO.
PLAYSTATION 3: SOMETIMES.
PLAYSTATION 4: YES, PROVIDED THE SUBSTITUTE ACTUALLY MATCHES.
PLAYSTATION PORTABLE: N/A (I was unable to find a substitute case.)
PLAYSTATION VITA: YES, PROBABLY, CHECK YOUR ORIGINAL.
SEGA CD: NO.
SEGA DREAMCAST: SOMETIMES.
SEGA SATURN JAPAN: SOMETIMES.
SEGA SATURN USA: NO.
TURBOGRAFX SERIES: NO.
XBOX (2001): YES, PROVIDED THE SUBSTITUTE ACTUALLY MATCHES.
XBOX 360: SOMETIMES.
XBOX ONE: NO.

Hope someone out there found this useful!  See you next time here on The Backstage Pass.

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