Some in the gaming community were completely under-whelmed by the recent unveiling of BioShock Infinite‘s official cover art. Now, the game’s designer—Ken Levine—weighs in on the topic.
This is but a piece of the full—and lengthy—comments that Levine gave Wired on the subject. For everything he said, you can hit the link at the bottom of this story. Here are the parts I found especially interesting, though:
“I understand that some of the fans are disappointed. We expected it. I know that may be hard to hear, but let me explain the thinking.”
“We went and did a tour… around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, so, have you guys heard of BioShock? Not a single one of them had heard of it.”
“I looked at the cover art for BioShock 1, which I was heavily involved with and love, I adored. And I tried to step back and say, if I’m just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don’t pay attention to them… if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think? And I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl. That’s what I would think. I was trying to be honest with myself. Trust me, I was heavily involved with the creation of those characters and I love them.”
“Would I buy that game if I had 60 bucks and I bought three games a year… would I even pick up the box? I went back to the box for System Shock 1, which was obviously incredibly important — that game was incredibly influential on me, System Shock 2 was the first game I ever made. I remember I picked it up… looked at it and I said, I have no idea what this game is. And I didn’t have a lot of money back then. So, back on the shelf. And I was a gamer.”
“We had to make that tradeoff in terms of where we were spending our marketing dollars. By the time you get to the store, or see an ad, the BioShock fan knows about the game. The money we’re spending on PR, the conversations with games journalists — that’s for the fans. For the people who aren’t informed, that’s who the box art is for.”
If this entire conversation even makes sense or not will depend on if you care about a game’s box art. For some (many?) of you, you may not—and you’re probably wondering why this is even an issue. For me, I do care, so I can understand the topic of conversation. Cover art is a game’s face—it’s the first impression we form of a game, and it helps to subconsciously define what that game is. So—as somebody who is not concerned with the marketing aspect of box art—I care more about seeing something that properly represents whatever the game is at its core.
And then there’s the fact that I do care, so I have more invested in the conversation. For those that don’t, I understand that they don’t see why this is all a big deal—but they’re not in a place to understand. (I don’t care about random sports team doing their thing, because it doesn’t impact my life at all—but I can appreciate that other people do.)
Additionally, in his comments to Wired, Levine said this:
“I think also when we do something for the hardcore gamer, there’s something we’re talking about and something we’re sure about. The thing we’re sure about is that we’re going to be releasing a whole set of alternate covers that you can download and print. We’re going to be working with the community to see what they’re interested in.”
While it isn’t certain if alternate covers that fans can print out is exactly what he’s referring to, on Twitter Levine also chimed in with this:
“Something to announce soonish about box cover (note: cover itself is not changing) that will give hardcore fans hearts, flowers and puppies.”
My solution? Reversible cover art. Put whatever is good for marketing as the cover art you see on store shelves, but do something more stylish and artistic on the flip side for us weirdos who do obsess over such things.