EA eliminates printed manuals

As part of its environmental initiative, publisher Electronic Arts announced that digital manuals will replace printed ones in all titles shipping worldwide.

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Printed game manuals have become a thing of the past for all Electronic Arts games. As part of a worldwide environmental initiative, the publisher today announced that digital manuals would replace the old paper ones in all titles shipping around the world. The move reportedly will result in a 40 percent reduction in printed materials in its packaged goods.

The new digital manuals will be on the game disc and be accessible both from the main menu and pause screens. One benefit to the new system is that players will be able to pull these manuals up on the screen without leaving the game, making it easy to get help. Full digital versions of the manuals, in multiple languages, will also be made available through a game manuals section on EA's support site.

While we can all appreciate the need to spare the environment, it's hard not to have at least a pang of nostalgia for the days of detailed manuals and the rest of the loot like cloth maps that came in the box. On the other hand, each of those Falcon 4.0 ring bound flight manuals probably took a birch or two to make.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 22, 2011 5:30 PM

    Comment on EA eliminates printed manuals, by Garnett Lee.

    • reply
      March 22, 2011 5:33 PM

      I'd rather see an in-game accessible manual than having the entire "game manual" printed in front of you during gameplay (e.g., "PRESS X TO NOT DIE", etc.).

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        March 22, 2011 5:40 PM

        i only ever use that front page with the controls mapped on the 360 controller and even then i barely use that unless the one in the game isn't good.

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        March 22, 2011 5:42 PM

        Shogun 2 has a really awesome wiki style encyclopedia that you can open within the game and has contextual links all over the place. It's fucking amazing.

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          March 22, 2011 5:57 PM

          this is how it should be for every game

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          March 22, 2011 6:06 PM

          the Metal Gear Database for MGS4 is super badass and so much better than an included book ever could have been.

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      March 22, 2011 5:42 PM

      This is great news! It is sure to help keep game prices lower, much in the same manner that digital distribution has helped.

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        March 22, 2011 5:43 PM

        and fuck EA for claiming that this is based off of some environmental impact decision.

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          March 22, 2011 5:57 PM

          yeah, more like "printing costs".

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          March 22, 2011 5:58 PM

          there's clearly a financial impact but paper isn't the large cost of a game. also, the environmental change is important - who needs all that paper?

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            March 22, 2011 6:08 PM

            I use to love manuals before they turned into pamphlets that poorly describe menu options and a place for credits.

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              March 22, 2011 6:13 PM

              yeah, they are fun, but i'd much prefer something searchable on the computer. :(

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                March 22, 2011 6:19 PM

                Both is better. I don't want to alt-tab out of a game to look at the manual. Lots of games don't like the alt-tab

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                March 22, 2011 8:42 PM

                Not I. See my post below for more info on why this isn't necessarily such an obvious "Slam-dunk!" decision.

                I like having a paper manual to read.

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            March 22, 2011 6:12 PM

            Sure, unnecessary paper is unnecessary, but for them to be calling this some sort of "environmental green initiative" is pure horseshit.

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              March 22, 2011 6:14 PM

              but it's not pure horseshit because there is a tangible impact on the reduction of paper waste. it's okay to understand they aren't talking about the cost of manuals and it's also okay as a consumer to want manuals back, but you denying any environmental impact is just as bad as what you are saying they are doing (not bringing up their financial gain.)

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                March 22, 2011 7:03 PM

                *sigh*

                You are reading a lot into my words that i didn't say.

                My ONLY point is that it is 100% bull crap that this change is due to some green initiative as they are purporting.

                They shouldn't be trying to spin the removal of manuals (some of which used to be awesomely useful, some not so much ) into something it is not.

                This is, at it's core, a cost saving initiative. To pretend that this doesn't take something away from the consumer is ridiculous.

                Sure some manuals absolutely suck and are a waste of paper, but some (like a good book) do add value in printed format.



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                  March 22, 2011 7:22 PM

                  the "green initiative" that has become vogue lately is the perfect excuse for them to do this, is what it boils down to. anything with "green" in it will be immediately seen in a positive light.

                  its exquisite: it allows them to make what could potentially be an unpopular business decision and frame it as a socially responsible maneuver. opportunities like this dont come along very often and they are wise to jump on it before green loses its magic.

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                  March 22, 2011 9:24 PM

                  the green initiative thing has happened before with manuals, too, and i honestly disagree with you that it's solely a cost saving measure (and as a consumer manuals in most games have nothing of real value anyway so it's not actually a loss to you.)

                  i also enjoy the more environmentally friendly boxes but i've heard people give those crap. the less plastic and the more eco friendly material can be used the better. so it saves a company a bit of money - would you rather they not do it?

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                    March 22, 2011 10:12 PM

                    A few thoughts

                    Just because many developers have let the manual degrade to "nothing of real value" as you put it doesn't mean it is now OK to throw away the idea of a printed manual in it's entirety. Some game types often benefit greatly from a extensive printed manual (RPG, Simulations etc).

                    I guess this is an indication of some of the transformations (read: dumbing down) that have been occurring over the PC space for the last few years.

                    I am not begrudging EA trying to shave a few pennies off the bottom line, but to market this as some "Grand Gesture" that illustrates that they are doing their part to save the trees is insulting.

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                      March 22, 2011 10:39 PM

                      i definitely disagree on the dumbing down thing - but i think using that phrase as a generalization usually misses the mark although when applied specifically sometimes i agree. most games that need big manuals also need balances or patches, and i'd much prefer a manual that can be updated rather than one that is obsolete when things get changed.

                      also in the age when so many people buy games and don't keep the packaging or don't get packaging, online manuals or in-game manuals are also welcome. and for me personally, that's the case - i have very few physical boxes left.

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                March 23, 2011 10:39 AM

                The environmental impact is a benefit of their decision, not their reasoning behind it as they are claiming. But that's marketing. /shrugs

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                  March 23, 2011 11:13 AM

                  I had an abortion last week, you know, because I'm green and stuff. Plus I hate babies.

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                    March 23, 2011 11:22 AM

                    why are you so terrible at logic

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                      March 23, 2011 11:35 AM

                      Logic? This is a cost cutting measure.

                      A room full of MBA's put together a CBA model and decided it made financial sense for the company to stop producing manuals. Saving paper is a nice bonus.

                      Greenwashing is annoying.

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                        March 23, 2011 3:16 PM

                        i have no idea how it actually went down at EA so maybe your idea of suits actually happened but chances are not and if you work in the business world you'd know that it's not as ridiculous as you make it sounds. also talking about abortions is why i said you were terrible and i'm totally sticking to that.

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                          March 23, 2011 4:11 PM

                          I work in the business world, and suits make all of the big decisions at a company the size of EA.

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              March 22, 2011 6:19 PM

              I wouldn't say it's "pure" horseshit, just mostly horseshit.

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            March 22, 2011 6:56 PM

            It still doesn't bring back all of those poor, dead PDFs that we senselessly slaughter every year.

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          March 22, 2011 7:24 PM

          Yeah, that made me laugh.

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          March 23, 2011 12:21 AM

          Its horrible how they try to make points with that in lieu of just saying that it is to make all games ready for digital distribution.

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          March 23, 2011 5:18 AM

          haha, agreed.

          This saves them thousands of dollars in production costs and no one will really notice it missing anyway. It's a business decision, and there's nothing wrong with that, but spinning it as a green initiative is pretty ridiculous.

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            March 23, 2011 6:32 AM

            It's still a green initiative whether you like that they say it or not. Bravo to them.

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              March 23, 2011 6:39 AM

              It's a business initiative that happens to result in saving paper.

              If they cancel an upcoming game does that count as a green initiative as well? Of course not.

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        March 22, 2011 5:56 PM

        lol. I have often wondered the same thing about DD.

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        March 22, 2011 6:17 PM

        Generally, reducing costs results in increased profits, not reduced prices.

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        March 22, 2011 8:48 PM

        it won't help keep game prices down, it will just help keep profits up.

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          March 22, 2011 9:14 PM

          this.

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          March 23, 2011 9:03 AM

          Now that even PC games have become $60 standard at release, I don't see EA prices dropping any time in the future...

        • reply
          March 23, 2011 10:14 AM

          you all clearly missed the sarcasm alarm going off

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      March 22, 2011 6:00 PM

      I couldn't agree more. It's just more evidence of games moving from an interactive art model to a business model.

      Same with installers. I think C&C remains one of the most rewarding installation experiences ever. :(

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      March 22, 2011 6:05 PM

      I'm all for finding new and innovative ways to integrate manuals into games.
      a) People never open the manuals anyway
      b) Opening the manual when you're trying to play the game sucks

      Roll that all in with an intelligent interface and I'm totally down. This sure as hell beats the previous method of just including PDF manuals. God, that was the worst.

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        March 22, 2011 6:15 PM

        some manuals are a work of art though. i remember reading through the starcraft and dungeon keeper manuals many times as a kid, I loved reading the backstory behind the units and tech :(

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          March 22, 2011 6:22 PM

          But there are awesome recent manuals. For example the GTA 4 one with all the different adverts and stuff reminded me strongly of Zak McKraken's Newspaper that was included.

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          March 22, 2011 6:33 PM

          I love me a good manual (the spiral bound Dune II manual was great), but more often than not it's just a waste of space anymore. Everything is integrated into ingame databases (like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood) and it's common for games to feature ingame tutorials to get players accommodated (in part because of people never bothering to read manuals in the first place).

          As much as I loved Read Dead Redemption, I don't recall ever opening the manual for it until I was trying to figure out how the fuck to do the quickdraw...which it didn't really explain at all anyway. The RDR Wiki was a million times more awesome.

          For me, integrating manuals into the games is totally the way to go. Bonus points if the company helps develop a detailed wiki.

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          March 22, 2011 6:52 PM

          the homeworld manual filled with tons of extraneous lore, i bet i was the only who one read it :(

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            March 22, 2011 7:01 PM

            mine wasn't in english, so I missed out on a lot of it :(

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              March 22, 2011 8:43 PM

              the english version was super fat and had backstory for all the clans, really fleshed things out

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            March 23, 2011 6:41 AM

            me too !!!!11oneone

            The best part was the history lesson and the admirals debate. The debate is a absolute classic!

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          March 22, 2011 8:53 PM

          mechwarrior, Baldur's gate

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          March 22, 2011 9:40 PM

          My favorite was the one for the original Fallout. There were fucking recipes in the back!

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        March 23, 2011 10:35 AM

        I think the best integration of manual into the game that I have experienced recently is Assassin's Creed 2. Everything is in the database and it's cool because it's right in the game. However, like anyone I truly enjoy thumbing through a good manual while waiting for my game to install and keeping at hand for quick reference while playing.

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      March 22, 2011 6:16 PM

      If I had an iPad, I wouldn't have a problem with this. Would be neat to have the iPad serve as a companion tool to the game with manual/reference etc for easy use while you play. I don't have an iPad though, so... :(

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      March 22, 2011 6:23 PM

      What the hell am I gonna read while I'm on the shitter now??

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      March 22, 2011 6:25 PM

      What is the third word on the 4th page?

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      March 22, 2011 6:45 PM

      Weren't they already basically down to a two or three page insert?

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      March 22, 2011 6:46 PM

      I still have my Diablo 2 printed Manual with pages of lore.

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      March 22, 2011 6:46 PM

      I don't know the last time I bought a physical copy of a game, but I like this move.

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        March 23, 2011 8:01 PM

        I don't.

        At the moment the industry is treating physical and digital as a black and white thing - Personally i'm more than willing to pay a premium for a properly done physical product (like a proper collector's edition, like the original WoW or GT5 Signature). Put the digital stuff down in price and limit production on the physical product. You save money, make the physical item rare (and thus reduce the supply) but worth it.

        Going away completely from the physical product is either a panic move to save money or to 'try to embrace the future for the sake of the customer' (which is also to save money). No one (in charge) seems to be able to compromise or actually look at the options.

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      March 22, 2011 7:04 PM

      There will still be printed manuals....you'll just have to buy the $150 special collectors editions with "limited gold leafed gamer manual"...

      It is sad, actually. Manuals use to be the first thing you looked at and not just to learn about the controls but also look at the artwork and the certain amount of character in them (Diablo 2 Manual....like the best ever).

      But alas, the newage gamer doesn't read....actually....do any of us read?

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      March 22, 2011 7:13 PM

      WTF am I going to read on the shitter now?

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        March 22, 2011 7:14 PM

        I am original and innovative. I also fail at refreshing!

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      March 22, 2011 7:25 PM

      What are manuals?

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      March 22, 2011 7:25 PM

      Manuals are boring and useless these days anyways. They've been pared down to two pages of copyright information and two pages of keyboard shortcuts. Can't say I'm going to miss that.

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      March 22, 2011 8:03 PM

      While I can't remember the last time I read a manual, there's a little part of me that remembers reading manuals sitting in the car on the way home from the shop that gets a little bit sad by this news.

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      March 22, 2011 8:06 PM

      I like a combination of the different views expressed here. In a manual I like all of the back story that does not make it into the game. The StarCraft and WarCraft 3 games come first to mind. Oh, and all of the awesome artwork.

      But i hate looking at manuals to try and figure out how to do something. Teach it in game or I will probably not be playing that game for long. I think most companies do a good job on this part.

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        March 22, 2011 8:39 PM

        Ugh. I feel completely different. Most games that try to "teach it to me in the game" end up boring me half to death by the time they're even 30% through the tutorial process. I can't stand that aspect of modern games (and it's particularly endemic to console games). Of further annoyance is the fact that these "tutorials" barely teach any of the important details anyway - it's all hand-holding for the most basic aspects of gameplay and to cater to the "I need everything spoon-fed to me" gaming crowd. :(

        Also, many games suffer badly due to a lack of an intelligently written and helpful game manual. Too Human, for example, would almost certainly have been better reviewed had reviewers been given the Prima/Brady game guide that I finally ended up purchasing back in the day. Before I had it, much of the game simply didn't make sense but after I acquired it, so much more of the depth and enjoyment built into the game system became more apparent. As a former professional freelance reviewer, it was enough of an impact that it would have changed my original opinion and scoring of the game from a 7 to possibly an 8 or 8.5. The lack of a good manual hurt that game, imho. I also feel that way, to some extent, about games like Madden. I hadn't played any of the games in that series for ages and finally picked up 2010 a few weeks back. The manual provided some buttons and control schemes and that was about it. Many gameplay elements weren't explained at all (fumble recovery mini-game - specifically how it works, why I can't always challenge a play despite having all my timeouts and it not being during the final 2 minutes of a half, what the number mean that are listed after formation types in the play selection screens, etc...).

        TL:DR - Not every game type needs a manual, admittedly, but there are many who would have been FAR better with them than without.

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      March 22, 2011 8:31 PM

      Not unexpected. I was surprised and pleased that (supposedly) we'll be able to pull the manual up during a pause in gameplay - that's incredibly helpful and goes a long way to mitigate the annoyance of not having a good manual to read.

      The sad thing is that while it will save 40% on printed costs, it's unlikely that ANY savings will be passed along to the customers. \ :(

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      March 22, 2011 8:33 PM

      RTFPDFM

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      March 22, 2011 8:38 PM

      Awesome! I await the impending flow of lower cost EA games!

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      March 22, 2011 8:55 PM

      Kinda funny considering I haven't gotten a real manual with a game I've bought that actually explained things in years.

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      March 22, 2011 9:26 PM

      If EA was so concerned about environmental issues they could just kill themselves and that would really take the burden off the planet.

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      March 22, 2011 10:32 PM

      I have one of those Falcon 4.0 binders. I especially like the Advanced Tactics section that goes over different flight formations, dogfighting tactics, and how to identify and avoid SAMs. Falcon 3.0 and 4.0 had the biggest manuals ever. I don't think any game will ever try to come close.

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        March 22, 2011 10:37 PM

        Yeah, holy shit, I had one of those. That thing was impressive.

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      March 23, 2011 5:15 AM

      sweet, no more tacked on french manuals clinging to my games

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      March 23, 2011 5:34 AM

      Great news. Manuals have been worthless for ages anyway.

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      March 23, 2011 10:01 AM

      The only environmental initiative going on here is saving the green from leaving their pocket.

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      March 23, 2011 10:03 AM

      the game industry pretty much eliminated manuals years ago. I miss the manuals of games long passed!

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      March 23, 2011 10:27 AM

      I can't wait for them to pass the savings on to the customer.

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      March 23, 2011 11:28 AM

      Manuals seem so unnecessary anymore since every game ever in the last 5 years has had a tutorial or the first few levels are a training session.

      I miss the Blizzard manuals that had interesting lore and stories in them, like Diablo and Warcraft II

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        March 23, 2011 12:30 PM

        These days I would consider it bad design if I had to read the manual to play the game.

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      March 23, 2011 11:38 AM

      sports games should still have manuals, it is ridiculous all the moves in those games (like madden, soccer, etc) and they just expect you to be able to look at the screen guide and understand all the shit

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      March 23, 2011 12:42 PM

      What a joke.

      "One benefit to the new system is that players will be able to pull these manuals up on the screen without leaving the game, making it easy to get help."

      So instead of pausing the game to look up something, now I have to quit the game, go back to the main menu, look up something, restart the game.

      How is that easier? Call it for what it is, a money saving measure. Stop trying to make it sound nice.

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      March 23, 2011 3:09 PM

      Of course these cost savings will be passed on to the consumer in the form of lower prices right?

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      March 23, 2011 3:12 PM

      The days of Homeworld's Historical Technical Briefing and Starsiege's lore only manuals are sadly long gone.

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