Rolling for Initiative is a weekly column by Scott Thorne, PhD, owner of Castle Perilous Games & Books in Carbondale, Illinois and instructor in marketing at Southeast Missouri State University.  This week, Thorne talks some packaging design concepts from the retailer's perspective.

We ran across an instance of what the publisher likely thought was a cute idea, an image superimposed on the box’s UPC code.  Unfortunately, when anything is placed on the UPC code, it makes it harder to scan the game and slows down operations at the register.  So, if you want to put a cute image on the game box, please find another location to place it than on top of the UPC code.  And with that, here are some other asks I as a store owner would request in order to help use sell your games more easily:

  1. Placement of UPC codes.  When designing the game box, please, if at all possible, lay the box out so that the UPC code appears on the back of the box instead of one of the sides.  Most game boxes get shrink-wrapped and heat sealed along the edges of the box.  This often causes the shrink-wrapping seam to run directly over the UPC code. The slight bubbling that the shrink-wrapping process causes distorts the plastic, and like putting an image on the UPC code, makes it harder for stores to scan the box.  Anything that can be done to speed up the process by which we can speed up checking out a customer helps
  2. Name positioning.  While it is a given that games have names and the package has the name on it someplace, make sure that the name of the game appears on the front and back of the box, as well as all four edges.  While stores would love to display all games face out, space limitations make this very hard to do for all games.  Some get shelved on their edge and if they do not have the name of the game on all four edges, it could get shelved without the name remaining visible.  We do have staff that check the shelves to rotate games and make sure the name is visible, but it is not on the box edge at all, that is pretty hard to do.  Also, for RPG publishers, put the name of the book at the top of the cover, rather than the bottom, as well as on the spine.  RPG books often get shelved spine out and a number of shelf designs that do show off the front cover of the book obscure the bottom third or so, covering any material that appears there.
  3. Font.  Yes, attractive fonts are, well, attractive, but if they are too stylized, they can be hard to read. Unless the customer is looking specifically for your game, it only had a few seconds to catch their eye and get them to pick it up and take a look.  Making the name as easy to read as possible makes it much more likely that its name will catch their eye.  There is some research out there, too, that says red or yellow lettering on a dark background catches the eye most readily but I will have to check on that to make sure.

Do you have any thoughts on improving package design?  Email me at

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of