Chapter 3: White Boxes: From envelopes to the Standard Game box I,
I.5, and II.
SPI's growth was happening fast. With increased sales, they found they could move into the die cut counter world. Now every magazine game after issue 25 would have professional die cut mounted counters. This, too, would contribute to yet more sales.
From S&T 34: In the near future "we will also probably produce die-cut counters for S&T issues 19, 20, 21, 22, 24 and 25 (S&T 23 does not need die-cut counters and S&T 27 no longer has a game!)" [page 43.]
T-34 used cardboard cutouts for tank 'miniatures' and France 1940 had sold to Avalon Hill.
But for growth to continue, SPI had to grow their audience, and the lack of access to customers via retail outlets was vexing.
As a mail-order only business, they were limited in their potential to reach people. Their own research showed only half the wargaming audience would use direct mail! While their outreach in direct mail via mail to History and Military Book club members had fueled their initial growth, without shelf presence, it was problematic. Kids under 17 rarely had checking accounts, and credit cards were much more difficult to get. But without at least one of those two key instruments, mail order was nearly impossible.
And without access to the larger market, it would be hard. And in every case, without retail presence, no one could 'see' SPI games on a shelf in a shop and make an 'impulse' purchase.
Direct mail was relatively cheap, but the limits were showing.
The hurdles were many if they wanted to be on a store shelf, though. Many things would have to change, their games had to have a box. The envelope these games were shipped in would not be acceptable for retail businesses.
So it was that in the fall of 1972, the announcement is made for two major changes in SPI's history:
Announced: Strategy & Tactics 34
Outgoing Mail column, Sept / Oct 1972
"By the end of September  every non-magazine game we sell will be boxed." [page 2]
The first box for SPI Games is the White Box, Mark I: (Also known as the Standard Game Box - SGB ).
Designed to hold the map, rules, charts, or magazine in the lid, and all counters in the covered flap area.
SPI then produced a set of red banners to be attached to the box for the games they currently had in print!
Also mentions the three illustrated boxes [Barbarossa, Leipzig, Normandy pg 42].
Left: The illustrated box for Leipzig. I think it was still available by the end of the SPI era.
Below: The Normandy illustrated box. This one did sell out, as seen by other versions of this box.
I don't think I have ever seen Barbarossa's illustrated box, just pictures.
Below: The Normandy box, opened. Note the flaps in the left side hold the rules and map, while the area on the right are flaps that cover the counters boxes - open areas separated by cardboard.
The illustrated boxes were versions of the white boxes - these were created as a test.
These boxes are beautiful - but as Redmond Simonsen pointed out, far too expensive to use.
"The Illustrated boxes (Barbarossa, Leipzig, and Normandy) have also been very successful leading some people to ask 'Why not illustrate all the game boxes?'
"I'd love to, if I had the time and the money and the sales volume per title that could justify printing 10,000 of each box cover (that's the lowest run which is at all feasible). Since we only sell a few thousand of each title per year, we'd be stuck with a whole bunch of pretty boxes for a painfully long time."
So the White Box Mark I became the standard box for new games, and could be purchased separately for previously purchased games.
Within a few months, people caught in that:
a) the flaps did not stay shut, meaning counters could fall out, and
b) even if they stayed in the counter area, the loose counters could (WOULD) slide under the corrugated cardboard insert, and didn't always slide into the other compartment.
The flap latches were stiffened, and corrugated cardboard added. (SGB Mark 1.5) But it was not enough.
Within a half year, the tricky people at SPI designed an all plastic counter tray to slide INSIDE the white box!
Below: Enter Standard Game Box Mk II
Look closely - that looks a lot like - yep! It is the bottom of what would become the SPI Flat Pact!
Next Chapter: The birth of the Flat Pack! Next
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