Sony sent me a PS5 early, a package that I had to be up at 7 am to sign for. We’ll have plenty more to come soon enough, but first I want to talk about the experience of opening the box. Opening a new piece of tech for the first time is an adventure! It’s part of the experience of owning it, a one-time moment of excitement that sets the stage for the product. The PS5 rests instead in simple eco-friendly cardboard and mostly recyclable materials. It’s certainly not pretty to look at as it comes out of its packaging, and it lacks much fanfare. But why does it matter?
Look at just how popular unboxing videos are and the way tech companies proudly display their wares inside super fancy packaging. Little ribbons that hold open slabs of layered cardboard covered with graphics that magnetize over little plastic display windows to show off the assortment of pieces, parts, and ultimately, the product itself. This is not the PS5 unboxing experience.
Inside the main PS5 box—the one you see all the product art for—is a secondary more rudimentary cardboard box; Something that wouldn’t exactly look pretty on a shelf, a simple white design with the PS logo in the middle of it. Opening the top of this box reveals a long cardboard box inside, with a small half circle cutout on one side big enough for your finger. This box contains the pack-ins—the DualSense controller placed inside a rectangular compartment, the HDMI, USB, and Power cables, and instruction manuals (quick start guide and safety information).
Under this accessories box is the PS5 itself. Loosely wrapped in an anti-static plastic material and placed between bumpers made of egg carton-like material sets this enormous console. Again, it’s not exactly pretty to look at as you take it out of the box. In fact, compared to the relative fanfare of the Xbox Series X packaging experience, the PS5 packaging is downright ugly in comparison. But it really didn’t matter. Within moments, I had pulled the PS5 console from the box, and freed it from its packaging. And it’s packaging freed itself from me. As someone who obsessively keeps boxes from new tech for no reason, boxes that end up becoming clutter and I just end up throwing away in five years, I was happy to not have any qualms taking the PS5 packaging out to the recycle bin.
Looking around my office right now, just at a glance, I can see boxes for my Astro C40 Controller, a Shure Wireless Lavalier Mic system, the Destiny 2 Collector’s Edition, and DropMix. I know I’ve got my PS Vita box somewhere in storage, I just threw out my launch PS4 box last year, and I still have the boxes for my Founder’s Edition Google Stadia controllers. So Sony freeing me of the desire to keep the box around by making it very simple, rudimentary, and highly recyclable is a moment of relief that doesn’t often come with new tech.
Google Stadia having great package design isn’t making me use the product any more than the little that I do. I don’t reminisce on how great it was to unbox the Astro C40 every time I use it. Unboxings are a fleeting moment. I love a great unboxing experience as much as the next person, but unboxing the PS5 made me realize that I really don’t need that experience. It was simple, quick, and got me right to what I really wanted to be doing: playing the console. It does very little to change my experience or opinion of the console itself, if anything at all. In fact, in some ways I respect Sony opting for a very simple and eco-friendly packaging design rather than engineering an extravagant unboxing experience that people will only have once.
The DualSense follows suit, eschewing its predecessor’s overly plastic-laden packaging with a simple rectangular compartment in a cardboard box. Sure, the PS5 and DualSense packaging might not make for great unboxings, but it doesn’t need to. The product should do all the talking, the product that you’ve already purchased (or had sent to you courtesy of Sony for review purposes). There’s no more marketing or sweet talking that needs to be done via a whole unboxing experience. Cellophane windows and magnetic flaps held in place with ribbon aren’t going to change my experience with the PS5. The way I see it, packaging has two purposes. 1) Look good on a shelf and 2) get the product to me undamaged. The PS5 packaging certainly accomplishes both of those things, so why would we need anything more?
Now I’m not certain what exact benefit this has for Sony. Did it save them a bunch of research and development time? Would it have cost a lot of money to make an extravagant experience out of every package? Did COVID play a role in the simplified PS5 packaging experience we’re getting? Is the company truly just trying to be eco-friendly with the number of consoles it is projecting to sell?
So don’t be surprised when you get your PS5 in just a couple of weeks and open it up to a lackluster unboxing experience. Instead, enjoy how quick and simple it is, appreciate the eco-friendly design, and relish in throwing out (recycling) yet another box that would just gather dust in some forgotten corner of your domicile. Soon you’ll have the console connected to your TV and forget all about the unboxing experience anyway.
What do you think of the PS5 packaging and unboxing experience? Do you want something with a little more flair, or are you just happy with Sony getting the product to you in one piece? Let us know in the comments.
PS5 Standard Edition Console provided by Sony.