First, off, how many big boxes do you currently own?
According to my spreadsheet, there's 691 boxed games covering the past four decades on the shelf behind me. Most of them are your typical PC big box, but there's also more varied boxes for e.g. Commodore 64 or Atari ST in there too.
How did you get involved with collecting big boxes? Is it something you actively pursue, or has the collection simply amassed over time?
It all started back in the late 80s with me buying games for the humble C64 and then for PC up until 2008-ish when big box games disappeared from Austrian stores and DVD cases as well as digital distribution started to become the norm. In 2012 I rediscovered my love for boxed games (thanks to the physical release of C64anabalt for C64) and I started browsing eBay, local classifieds and flea markets for tracking down all the games I hadn't had money for as a teen.
For you, what's the appeal of collecting big box PC games?
Nostalgia. I've spent way too many hours in stores browsing through these big box games and picking the one I eventually did spend my money on was always a tough decision. Most of the time, the money was well spent even if the game wasn't that good, because you'd get a printed manual with additional lore, trinkets like maps or coins too. Also, booting up a game started with you grabbing a big box to get the disks or CDs and often the manual too first, so those boxes were like a physical link to whatever fantastic world you'd decided to visit for the next hour or two. Don't get me wrong, digital games and today's instant access are fantastic, but it did rob us of the tangible nature of playing computer games.
Why did you decide to digitise your collection?
It wasn't a decision but more of a necessity; I just needed an index and visual references to keep an overview of my steadily growing collection. Also, it allowed me to share my collection and boxes in detail with others on the net.
How did you approach the digitising process?
At first, I took photos of the boxes' covers and was sharing them on the net and social media. Due to the varying quality of my photos, I invested in a scanner and replaced the photos one-by-one with high-res scans but something was still feeling off. I soon realized that recreating the whole box digitally was what I've been after; experiments with photos and mock-ups eventually led to the 3D models that are now available on bigboxcollection.com.
How has the recent surge in interest in big boxes affected your own approach to collecting? Has it become noticeably harder to obtain boxes at a reasonable prices? Have you sold any of your own collection?
I'm happy that the community grew bigger and is better connected these days (shout-out to the "Big Box PC Game Collectors"-group on Facebook); I've met a lot of enthusiastic folks from all over the world thanks to those dusty cardboard boxes. Prices did go up but I'm not really buying into the current hype of big boxes being investments and so on. I'm still trying to follow my "€10 per game"-limit and believe me, patience does go a long way in this regard. At the same time, I'm fine with never owning Ultima I or a copy of the mail-order version of Doom; there's tons of less popular games high on my wish-list. With that, I don't see an end coming soon for me collecting boxed games.
Lastly which is your favouirte big box, and why?
Tough question. American McGee's Alice? Last Ninja 2? The Collector's Edition of Diablo II? Oh, I know: Ultima Underworld. Fantastic cover art by Denis Loubet and it comes with extra manuals, a map and a bag of runes.