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intric8
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Best Video Game Boxes of All-Time: Electronic Arts’ “Flats”

by intric8 Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:33 pm

There is a small hard-core niche of retro game collector that obsesses over the completeness and purity of physical games, both the media and the packaging.

And when pondering if a new game should be acquired, the following variables are generally all considered in varying degrees and all affect perceived value: condition of the box; rarity of the game; popularity of the game; internal paper inserts or other “feelies” (condition & completeness); condition of the disk(s) or cartridge; game’s operational status; box’s virginity (has it ever been opened), etc. And yes, it’s a very eclectic and often expensive hobby to pursue and research is required.

For those with this strange addiction the whole process can bring a lot of pleasure and satisfaction, especially when a new piece to the collection’s puzzle is put into place.

Besides obvious economics, the most common reason I hear about not collecting physical games is a simple and totally understandable one: space. Boxes can take up a lot of space and many just don’t have much to spare.

I’ve read and even spoken to some who have kept their original disks (which are deteriorating) and manuals but dumped the thicker boxes for space considerations. For some games, sadly, the boxes and associated paperwork are worth far more than the original disks.

Regardless, there is one type of box that does not take up much room at all, and actually looks even better than any other. And, it came from a publisher who created some of the most iconic games of the early-to-mid 1980s across multiple computer platforms. This, of course, is the Electronic Arts (EA) “Flat” or “flat box”.
flatbox-2.jpg
My entire EA Flat collection as it stands today. Most are for the C64 except for the two in the far-right for Amiga: Earl Weaver Baseball and F/A-18 Interceptor. Two of mine are sealed: Archon (tri-fold) and Lords of Conquest.

At the time, games came on large 5 1/4” floppy disks and often on just one was all it took to send you to video gaming heaven. This media's form factor fit perfectly into a “sleeved” box concept borrowed directly from their vinyl counterparts in the music industry - the record album - larger-format art and a thin package.
flatbox-4.jpg
This entire set of games can be easily picked up with one hand: an impossible feat had these been packed in more common "VHS" width boxes.

In 2004, Hugh Falk of GOTCHA (Gaming Obsession Throughout Computer History Association) was able to collect some fascinating background on the EA Flats through a series of email communications with (legendary) Trip Hawkins, Bing Gordon and Budd Steinhilber.

Budd Steinhilber, who was President of the San Francisco design firm of Steinhilber, Deutsch & Gard, which designed the original packaging, told GOTCHA:
In 1983 in respect to the three-leaf, two-fold, square album concept. I can tell you that the inspiration for this format grew out of sketches that Barry Deutsch and I first proposed to Rich Melmon, Trip Hawkins, and Bing Gordon. As you know, most video-games at the time were on cartridges, so presentation of the floppy disk deserved more than just a simple one part sleeve. Especially since Trip wanted to punch-up not only the game features, but promote the "electronic artists" as well. (And it allowed us to stretch Dr.J. & Larry Bird's lanky frames across three panels). We also worked closely with Jeff Silverstein (Goodby,Berlin & Silverstein) in some aspects of early advertising design strategy. Here are three of our earliest albums (One on One, Worms and Pinball) for which we did design, art production, and photo art-direction.
It's worth noting that the Worms mentioned here is actually Worms? and is not the game most Amigans bring to mind from the 90s. Worms? was one of the original 5 games that launched Electronic Arts into being a real-deal video game company in 1983.

Hugh Falk:
There are four types of EA flat boxes:
  • Tri-fold: The original flat-box that, upon opening, has three panels -- left, center and right. Examples include: Archon, Pinball Construction Set and The Last Gladiator.
  • Bi-fold: This variant came slightly later and only features two panels that open like a book. Examples include: The Bard's Tale, Racing Destruction Set and Mail Order Monsters.
  • Record Sleeve: This variant is similar to traditional record album packaging. It is simply a cardboard pocket with an opening on one side. Nothing folds out. Examples include: The "Amazing Software" line and budget repackaging for the "Software Classics" line.
  • Fat Box: This variant is still approximately 9" square but is about three times thicker than a standard flat box. If it were a record album, it would be comparable to a boxed set. This box is unique in that it has a lid that separates from the bottom container. Examples include: The Bard's Tale II, Robot Rascals and Radio Baseball.
flatbox-3.jpg
The glory and high-value of the Flats is immediately clear when stacked, especially for those whom space is limited.

Below is a comprehensive list of EA Flats (although not 100% complete as some OSes are missing) compiled by Falk in 2004 and modified here by Amiga Love with permission to re-publish. If you know of any other EA Flats that should be included - regardless of OS/platform - please let us know.

GameOSMediaCategoryYear
Adventure Construction SetC645.25" DiskRPG1984
Age of AdventureAtari5.25" DiskRPG1981-86
AmnesiaC645.25" DiskAdventure1987
AmnesiaApple II5.25" DiskAdventure1987
AmnesiaDOS5.25" DiskAdventure1987
ArchonAtari5.25" DiskAction / Strategy1983
ArchonC645.25" DiskAction / Strategy1983
Archon II: AdeptC645.25" DiskAction / Strategy1984
ArcticfoxAtari ST3.5" DiskArcade1985-86
ArcticfoxApple II5.25" DiskArcade1985-86
ArcticfoxC645.25" DiskArcade1985-86
Axis AssassinC645.25" DiskArcade1983
Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight TrainerApple II5.25" DiskSim1987
Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight TrainerC645.25" DiskSim1987
D-BugAtari5.25" DiskEdu1983;
Dan Dare: Pilot of the FutureC645.25" DiskArcade1986
DeathlordC645.25" DiskRPG1988
DeathlordApple II5.25" DiskRPG1988
Delta PatrolC645.25" DiskArcade1987
Demon StalkersC645.25" DiskArcade1987
Dragon's LairC645.25" DiskArcade1983
Earl Weaver BaseballDOS5.25" DiskSports1987
Earl Weaver BaseballAmiga3.5" DiskSports1987
EOS: Earth Orbit StationsC645.25" DiskStrategy1984-1987
F/A-18 InterceptorAmiga3.5" DiskSim1988
Ferrari Formula OneAmiga3.5" DiskSim1988
Golden OldiesC645.25" DiskMisc.?
Grand Slam BridgeDOS5.25" DiskMisc.1985-87
Hard Hat MackC645.25" DiskArcade1983
Hard Hat MackAtari5.25" DiskArcade1983
Heart of AfricaC645.25" DiskRPG1985
Legacy of the AncientsDOS5.25" DiskRPG1987
Legacy of the AncientsC645.25" DiskRPG1987
Legacy of the AncientsApple II5.25" DiskRPG1987
Lords of ConquestAtari ST3.5" DiskStrategy1986-88
Lords of ConquestAtari5.25" DiskStrategy1986
Lords of ConquestC645.25" DiskStrategy1986
M.U.L.E.C645.25" DiskStrategy1983
M.U.L.E.Atari5.25" DiskStrategy1983
Mail Order MonstersC645.25" DiskArcade1984-85
Make Your Own Murder PartyC645.25" DiskMisc.1986
Marble MadnessApple IIGS3.5" DiskArcade1984-87
Marble MadnessC645.25" DiskArcade1984-86
Mind MirrorC643.5" DiskMisc.1986
Mind MirrorApple II5.25" DiskMisc.1986
Murder on the ZinderneufDOS5.25" DiskAdventure1983-84
Murder on the ZinderneufAtari5.25" DiskAdventure1983
One on OneC645.25" DiskSports1983
One on OneAtari5.25" DiskSports1983
Patton VS RommelMac3.5" DiskStrategy1986
Patton VS RommelC645.25" DiskStrategy1986
PHM PegasusC645.25" DiskSim1987
PHM PegasusApple II5.25" DiskSim1987
Pinball Construction SetC645.25" DiskArcade1985
Pinball Construction SetAtari5.25" DiskArcade1985
Pinball Construction SetC645.25" DiskArcade1985
Pinball Construction SetApple II5.25" DiskArcade1982-84
Racing Destruction SetAtari5.25" DiskArcade1985
Racing Destruction SetC645.25" DiskArcade1985
Radio BaseballDOS5.25" DiskSports1986
Realm of ImpossibilityC645.25" DiskArcade1983-84
Realm of ImpossibilityAtari5.25" DiskArcade1983-84
Return To AtlantisAmiga3.5" DiskAdventure1985-88
Robot RascalsC645.25" DiskBoard1986
Robot RascalsApple II5.25" DiskBoard1986
SanxionC645.25" DiskArcade1986
Skate or DieC645.25" DiskArcade1987
SkyfoxAtari ST3.5" DiskArcade1984-85
SkyfoxC645.25" DiskArcade1984-85
Skyfox II: The Cygnus ConflictAmiga3.5" DiskArcade1987
Skyfox II: The Cygnus ConflictC645.25" DiskArcade1987
Skyfox II: The Cygnus ConflictDOS5.25" DiskArcade1987-88
StarflightDOS5.25" DiskRPG1986
Strike FleetApple II5.25" DiskSim1987
Super BoulderDashC645.25" DiskArcade1984-86
The Bard's Tale IIAmiga3.5" DiskRPG1988
The Bard's Tale IIC645.25" DiskRPG1988
The Bard's Tale III: Thief of FateApple II5.25" DiskRPG1988
The Bard's Tale III: Thief of FateC645.25" DiskRPG1988
The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown Volume IApple IIGS3.5" DiskRPG1985-87
The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown Volume IC645.25" DiskRPG1985-87
The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown Volume IAtari ST3.5" DiskRPG1985-87
The Last GladiatorC645.25" DiskArcade1983
The Last GladiatorApple II5.25" DiskArcade1983
The Official America's Cup Sailing SimC645.25" DiskSim1986
The Seven Cities of GoldAtari5.25" DiskRPG1984
The Seven Cities of GoldC645.25" DiskRPG1984
The Standing StonesC645.25" DiskRPG1983
Touchdown FootballAtari5.25" DiskSports1985-86
Ultimate WizardC645.25" DiskArcade1984-86
WastelandC645.25" DiskRPG1987-88
WastelandApple II5.25" DiskRPG1986-88
Word FlyerAtari5.25" DiskEdu1983
World Tour GolfApple IIGS3.5" DiskSports1985-87
Worms?C645.25" DiskALife1983
Worms?Atari5.25" DiskALife1983
flatbox-5.jpg
They stack well on any sized shelf, too. I like to change the box on the outside from time to time, depending on my mood.
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Shot97
 
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Re: Best Video Game Boxes of All-Time: Electronic Arts’ “Fla

by Shot97 Fri Jun 16, 2017 2:28 am

I understand how some people love those small vinyl like offerings, they are pretty cool. Personally, I just never had a drive for the boxes of games. The only exception is Sega Genesis games, where practically everyone had the boxes, that's where the cart went! Great idea, Sega! I have no boxes for any of my console games other than the Genesis. In terms of my Vic-20 and Commodore 64, for some reason I dig the cassette tapes. I don't collect music on cassette, I like vinyl... But there's something about those glossy cassette inserts I dig for C64 games. My dad never even had a tape drive.... But I saw Ghostbusters and had to have it!

In terms of Amiga or PC games, I don't care for the most part. Exceptions are with certain games I remember the boxes of. They were all big boxes. Wing Commander, Lemmings, Wing Commander IV, Civilization... A few others... Just a few icon ones. I always kept the manuals and such, but I remember glaring at these boxes when I wanted my father to play that game... Only he felt like playing another... "Come on! Play Wing Commander!" Oh well, I'll look at the box... Until he got rid of the boxes after the warranty that is.
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TenLeftFingers
 
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Re: Best Video Game Boxes of All-Time: Electronic Arts’ “Fla

by TenLeftFingers Fri Jun 16, 2017 10:04 am

Wow, nice post! I like that the art really shines through on those. As Shot says, the vinyl-esque look will appeal to some and not others.

I can imagine making a nice set of shelves - very shallow - for those. Something like this for example Image
mattsoft
 
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Re: Best Video Game Boxes of All-Time: Electronic Arts’ “Fla

by mattsoft Tue Jul 04, 2017 12:52 pm

I loved these EA flats and only have a couple myself. EA also did a nice job on designing the sleeves, always very "upscale" looking.
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