American Box Art Sucks

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It's because the people who do American boxart don't know shit. Hollywood does floating heads because they spent a ludicrous amount of money buying Harrison Ford's head, because they know that movie-goers will spend a ludicrous amount of money to buy tickets to see Harrison Ford's head. Games do not have actors. Our floating head fetish makes no sense.

A game like Bayonetta that sells on the strong character design and sex appeal of its lead, sure, put her on the cover. But there had better be some goddamn tits, because no one is buying her hairstyle. RE4's cover, we started out with a decent shot of filthy, crazed villagers, that's what the game is about, that's great, and then we stick Leon's stupid face on top of it; ugly, I think you ruined it, but a pretty boy and a gun could help, so I see where you're coming from. But for Ico... Jesus, it's the most meaningless thing I've ever seen. No idea what the game is about, but I'm playing as A KID WITH HORNS, FUCKING AMAZING. And there's a GIRL'S HEAD involved somehow, holy shit. I weep for the money spent on this shitty box.

I dunno. Maybe it is because I am American but when comparing all the non-america covers to the American ones, I have the distinct feeling almost every time that I'd be more likely to pick up and look over the American cover than the others. I agree the others tend to have a better artistic sense but marketing isn't about art, it's about grabbing the eye enough to get you to look at the back, like Yahtzee listed. Actually the majority of the American box art covers meet the first two criteria if not the third (viewable from a distance).

LadyRhian:
Because America is all about identifying with the main character- becoming the main character, so that's what we want to see on our box art. Admittedly, not always, but mostly. And we can't identify with a character (or characters) if we don't know what they look like.

I think this is also a plausible theory.

The Real Sandman:
Who knows really.

I don't have any particularly notable games to mention, but I do have my own personal gripe.

The Secret of NIMH

Fucking. Amazing. Film.

It was a family flick filled with all the adventure and fantasy animated films about talking woodland critters were required to have as rule of thumb, but it still managed be pretty damn dark, serious, fairly intellectually driven and out right beautifully artistic. It was a family movie that defied conventions and was actually about stuff.

I haven't seen it yet but I've been wanting to for a LONG time, too bad no video stores seem to have it.

OT: Many have said that box art covers doesn't really matter since it's the game itself that counts.

A good, memorable box art can make a good impression in the marketing campaign. Something that draws your attention when put on billboards or websites and makes people that don't keep up with gaming news know that the game exists and what it's about. And it's a real advantage in marketing if you have some unique imagery when competing with hundreds of other products for the consumers attention.

box art is an interesting and funny subject. way back when i was but a lad, i bought flashback, despite the weird box art that actually had nothing to do with the game. luckily for me, the game was good. and then just a few years ago, i came across Ico after getting my PS3 (never had a PS2) and panned it because of the horrible box art. of course now i know that the game is great and i should have purchased it, but the box art was so horrible, so off-putting that i missed out on the game. now i have to wait for the HD bundle i guess.

i really wish that we up here in canada didn't have to suffer with the US box art. i'd much rather have the european or japanese box art in most cases anyway.

Daemascus:
Cause thats what the over seas companies think we like. Its not our fault their idea of how to market to americans is wrong. Besides, its the game inside that counts.

Um, mate, not true. Marketing is almost always done regionally. If selling things to Americans were up to us, every single game cover would feature a 'roided up meathead with an American flag in the background - because we think you're all a bit thick.

Now, that is not meant as an insult, mind you, just stating a fact. Just look at what VW or Ford Europe do - "hey, let's keep all the good cars with well made interiors and 40 mpg engines here in Europe, and sell huge, cheap, papier-maché barges to those Yanks". Just look at the new VW Passat. If I were an American, I'd be insulted.

Otto42:

Danzaivar:
Europe has twice as many people and a dozen times as many languages, and completely different cultures every few hundred miles too. Don't try selling that varied culture crap. :p

Europe also has everybody pretty much *hating* each other's guts. There's virtually no crossover. Or are you seriously suggesting that Germans all watch the same shows that the British people do?

The thing is, while the US is indeed a wide varied set of cultures, just as Europe is, very few people are trying to sell something to the whole of Europe at once. They localize, and tailor content to each audience. That's not the case here, because apparently we just can't be bothered or something, so everything ends up having to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

It's not that you can't find intellectually stimulating and satisfying material in the US, it's just that from the outside looking in, you'd have to see through the 20 layers of stupid nonsensical BS to get anywhere near it. And this is the case in the reverse too, obviously. There's a lot of crap coming out of the BBC these days, and while the Brits obviously know what is good there, you have to admit that there's a lot of bad as well.

Maybe, maybe not. We all get the same box art though.

Oh and you guys all hate each other too. Be it politics, or north/south, or east/west. Whatever. :p

As an American, I will respond for my people by saying: If we don't have a picture of titties with lots of color and flashy filters we wont buy it....why? Because our attention span is so minuscule unless its ungodly flashy and screaming "OH GOD PLEASE LOOK AT ME!" then we can't notice it because we are too busy buying other, flashier things.

I am from England and i can't stand american box art.

Other examples of this are Final Fantasy. The EU and JP box art id just a white case with the logo on it, rather than the mess americans have.

And the worst one i have seen is pretty recent and i know Yahtzee will hate it.

Amnesia.
http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/9024/boxartj.jpg

Guess what one belongs to who.

It's all apart of the hate-cycle. See, ever since becoming a world power, we've decided that holding a grudge for all those wars in the second half of the 18th century (plus we decided to protest your naval shenanigans by going to war with Canada in 1812, which ended about as well as you could expect for a war run by people who accidentally invaded the wrong country) was too petty for our new international Superman image. Instead, we decided to take out all of our hatred on France, because France hates you British people already. The more we pick on France, the more France takes it out on you.

EDIT: More seriously, there are plenty of American gamers (possibly even a majority of the market) who only like games that allow them to live out their juvenile male power fantasies. However, only a vanishingly small amount of that demographic is going to show up on the Escapist, so you're preaching to the choir.

Mcface:

MacNille:
You should have brought up resident evil 4 boxart.

here is the pal version: image It's very stylise and a litte scary too.

Now here is the american: image

So generic. Nothing about this cover is good. It's so damn bland.

American box art is just more descriptive of the game.
So if you are browsing the store, you see both of these game cases, knowing nothing about the game, you are more likely to get a better idea of what the game is from it.

It's not a creepy dark game where you are in a empty desolate place like the top cover suggests, you are in a village packed with zombies carrying chainsaws, like the bottom.

I don't know, the first one definitely conveys the feeling of being alone in an alien and threatening environment, that feeling that something can pop out from any corner at any time. The problem with the American box art in my opinion is that it's far too literal. The PAL version, if it were text, says to me "lost in the dangerous, unknown woods" which sums up the game quite nicely in some ways. The American box art says "look your this guy with a laser sight and you get to shoot these assholes behind him look how many their are but you're a tough guy".

Also when are American marketing teams going to realize that just because a character model is perfectly suitable for gameplay, it doesn't make it good box art? Are they afraid that people will mistake a game with a beautiful painting on the cover for a game about painting? "oh no, I'm not picking up this game. I want a game with polygons".

Nojh:
I dunno. Maybe it is because I am American but when comparing all the non-america covers to the American ones, I have the distinct feeling almost every time that I'd be more likely to pick up and look over the American cover than the others. I agree the others tend to have a better artistic sense but marketing isn't about art, it's about grabbing the eye enough to get you to look at the back, like Yahtzee listed. Actually the majority of the American box art covers meet the first two criteria if not the third (viewable from a distance).

Partly true. Marketing is indeed about grabbing people's attention, but whether that works or not depends entirely on the target audience's sensibilities: you don't market a Big Mac like you would market an upscale French restaurant, or a Merc E-Class in the same fashion as a Chevy Pick-up.

As I said before, this is basically borderline insulting to American consumers: in essence, it's the marketers saying, "yeah, like those morons could appreciate understatement and subtlety" - after all, Michael Bay IS American.

The thing is, some of the greatest box art ever (a plain black box? Genius) was by Origin, a company from Austin, TX...

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmericanKirbyIsHardcore

image

http://www.infendo.com/america-makes-kirby-pissed-off-japan-makes-him-smile/

image

There are better examples but I feel lazy.

The same goes for all (most?) other kirby games, check em out if you want.

Dannyjw:
I am from England and i can't stand american box art.

Other examples of this are Final Fantasy. The EU and JP box art id just a white case with the logo on it, rather than the mess americans have.

And the worst one i have seen is pretty recent and i know Yahtzee will hate it.

Amnesia.
http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/9024/boxartj.jpg

Guess what one belongs to who.

That monster on the cover looks like it has a beak for a mouth. :P

Falseprophet:
Let's hope Apple puts out a console next generation.

So we can have a console that costs $999 and games that cost $99 just because of the special "you will pay way more than this is worth" stamp on them? No thanks. I'll take bad box art over overpaying out the ass any day. Plus it's stupid to try and blame Microsoft anyway; North America has been getting shitty boxart before even Sony got into the game market.

"Highest rated game ever."
-Computer game review.

Lols

OT: I agree wholeheartedly here. Those covers were really sad things.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Snip

For America, out box art problem comes from to issues:

1. Hollywood always puts a picture of the actor on the film poster if they are even slightly bankable. If somebody is the slightest fan of the actor, they hope to attract them based on the actor. Putting the director on the poster makes little sense since you never see them, and trying to sell a movie with the story is a joke hollywood would laugh for hours at. Paying somebody like Drew Struzan (who did the perfect posters for E.T., Star Wars, and the Indiana Jones movies) who could show both the characters and give a feel for the story was considered to expensive with the invention of photoshop. It is a trend we've had since their has been famous actors and it is one that were stuck with, which has infected American video game box art design, so no box art isn't complete without the characters of the game.

2. American audiences want stuff that looks hardcore: The target American audience for both Hollywood and the video game industry is 15-30 year old men. Box art is often made to look hardcore so the person buying it doesn't feel bad about the fact they are buying a "game."

AgentNein:

I don't know, the first one definitely conveys the feeling of being alone in an alien and threatening environment, that feeling that something can pop out from any corner at any time. The problem with the American box art in my opinion is that it's far too literal. The PAL version, if it were text, says to me "lost in the dangerous, unknown woods" which sums up the game quite nicely in some ways. The American box art says "look your this guy with a laser sight and you get to shoot these assholes behind him look how many their are but you're a tough guy".

Yeah, sure, it's easy to give the win to the PAL contender when you translate the PAL box art into words by trying to convey the emotions on the cover and translate the American box art into words by trying to make a joke about it. The PAL version looks like it's advertising a Silent Hill game, one that focuses on isolation and real, actual horror. The American version is more honest about what Resident Evil 4 actually is: Shooting lots and lots of zombies.

Otto42:
Europe also has everybody pretty much *hating* each other's guts. There's virtually no crossover. Or are you seriously suggesting that Germans all watch the same shows that the British people do?

The thing is, while the US is indeed a wide varied set of cultures, just as Europe is, very few people are trying to sell something to the whole of Europe at once. They localize, and tailor content to each audience. That's not the case here, because apparently we just can't be bothered or something, so everything ends up having to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

What a load of rubbish. "No crossover"? I take it you've never been to Europe, mate. Right now, Adele's single is at the top of the charts all over Europe, and tomorrow, millions of people will be glued to TV screens watching football friendlies. If you think that games in Holland have different covers than those in the Czech Republic, you're out of your mind.

Despite all of our difference, us Europeans have more in common with each other than an intellectual from New England has with some Southern Bible-thumper.

The Resident Evil 4 is my immediate example too, that ethereal image of Dr. Salvador in a sunset-red bathed woods is so atmospheric.

American boxart has always been lousy, not only in games. Check any sci-fi movie from the 50's and you'll find a huge unbelievable monster holding a woman, standing tall over the cast who look scared as if he's about to barf over them all.

I'd say the majority of marketing towards Americans focuses on their stereotypical two traits they prefer compared to other markets: Action and Violence.

Sure I wouldn't say I fit that stereotype even though I'm American but stereotypes exist for a reason. A lot of people fit it. The purest and simplest way to see this, IMO, is the Kirby box art already seen in this thread. I mean... they don't need to add the angry expressions. But they do. Because stereotypical Americans will buy that before the happy-fun game. Even if it is still Kirby.

I agree that a lot of box art tends to be more... cluttered when it comes to here in the Western hemisphere. That probably is to appease the action-oriented stereotype. "Look at all that stuff in this game!"

This stuff reminds me of a contest that was done by Korn, maybe 10 years ago: fans could submit videos they made for Korn last single, and the best one chosen by the band would actually make the official music video. There was a lot of good stuff, and the winner was a guy that used only footage from security camera, giving a very particular feel to it.

Filming starts, then the marketing from the record company steps in, saying "you need to show the band playing". This doesn't match the artistic direction of the video, so the guy protest, Korn themself protest. Marketing doesn't give a shit, it's "do as we say or we'll get someone else. In America, people want to see the band playing in the video". Down the drain goes the inspired, original video, welcome back generic stuff.

Marketing: the last defense against originality.

Wow, just looking at the original Out of this World/Another World box art mad me want to go dig it up a ebay or something.

The main reason we Americans suck at cover art is because most of us wouldn't know subtlety if it came up and stabbed them, hell I forgot how to spell it when writing this.

Final Fantasy XII in Japan. Euorpean box art is the same minus the Japanese text.

image

And in the United States.

image

Same goes for Final Fantasy X:

image
image

WanderingFool:
Simple answer? The people behind the American Boxart are fucking morons... thats about it...

Man i wish that was the truth but alas it is not, simple answer is the people who CHOOSE box art are not stupid. They also have little to no interest in what is artistic. They know that gamers (if you are on this site this probably is you) who want to play the games they make will know 90% of the games content before the game even comes out. The job of the box art is to draw the attention of the Joe f***wit (not sure if I'm allowed to swear here lol)who is wandering around the electronics section of Walmart. Think about it. games like gears of war and halo. big tough manly games with manly men on the cover holding giant guns of DOOM. Price check on aisle 5. Now imagine if you will you take out the manly man and the gun. you lose the idiot crowd thats a big audience to lose to please some people who have already made up their mind if they want to buy your game right. yeah i thought so.

Unfortunatly, FF XIII have the same cover in Europe and USA, somewhere in the middle: original FF-on-white cover, with the main character slapped on the side.

image

hawk533:
Yahtzee, this just seems kind of irrelevant in this day and age. With online distribution on the rise there's not much of future for box art. It's all screenshots nowadays.

Besides, most of these examples are from the 80's. We Americans prefer not to talk about the art that came out of our country in those days.

Actually even the digital download services use box arts. XBL has regular box arts as the thing you see when selecting the game, Steam has at least a logo in the list and possibly a big mention of the game at the top, those act together as a kind of box art. Sure, the art isn't on a box anymore but it has the same purpose. A game that makes its main picture a regular screenshot usually looks unappealing.

Personally, the box art doesn't matter to me. I buy my games via Steam anyways, and Steam doesn't have or care about the box art.

Must be a really slow week if we're sitting around bitching about box art from the DOS era.

Fredvdp:
Same goes for Final Fantasy X:

image
imagehttp://images.wikia.com/pcsx2/images/f/fe/Final_Fantasy_X_FrontBox.jpgimage

Really? Where I'm at we had the one on the top =/

Huh. I never really cared for box art. I mean the game can still suck even with really good and stylistic box art. In fact isn't it worse to play a bad game with a good box art cover? I mean with a good game with bad box art cover you can rip the cover off and get some fan drawing to replace it or you can just ignore it and give it good word to mouth pr to sell the game to others. I mean when I started playing Pokemon the covers didn't sell me so much as everyone in the school playing the game. Also a lot of my games are used these days I'd be lucky to have a cover at all.

I can kinda understand what the point is and it is odd but seriously if the content is the same who cares after all this whole discussion is based on making choices with shallow discrimination.

Cover Art is usually irrelevant to buying games as if its on the big display board in shops then its big and you heard about it, if not then you only get to see the side of the box so art is pointless..

Personally, I live minimalist art and art that has deeper meaning than to just portray or explain what something is about.. although if it has to be normal 'explaining' art then I absolutely love the semi-drawn, semi-digitalized box art of Dawn of War 2 and the box art of Wolfenstein (the modern one) wasn't bad either.

A small detail we might be neglecting are sales figures. If the box art really is that bad and fails at advertising the game probably isn't going to sell anyway. That should be some incentive to make box art that the consumers will be interested in. Note I didn't say it would be GOOD boxart...

I think the only alternate cover w'eve ever gotten that wasn't complete shit was for God Hand, which one could argue was an even more perfect representation of the game's content than the Japanese version (it's an extreme black and white close up of a Mad Max style thug in profile with the titular God Hand smashing into his face).

Actually, America also gets the shittiest book covers, too. Just look at the cover for the Penguin Classics edition of Lu Xun's collected fiction (a man in traditional Qing dynasty dress, complete with long queue, seen from behind), representative of everything Lu Xun hated and railed against in his writing, and compare it to the Chinese cover of his collected works which is tastefully designed and features no image other than a small photograph of the author's face positioned dead center. The same publisher's big deluxe edition of The Three Musketeers features a stick figure comic (imagine a much less funny XKCD) emblazoned across its front. If I knew who made these decisions I would do everything in my power to hurl them into the sun or, failing that, to get Lou Ferigno to do it for me.

It seems like americans have more "aggressive" box-art and more shizzle happening on them. It´s cultural difference, perhaps box-art designers think this is more like their media and this is someone elses.

LadyRhian:

Dannyjw:
I am from England and i can't stand american box art.

Other examples of this are Final Fantasy. The EU and JP box art id just a white case with the logo on it, rather than the mess americans have.

And the worst one i have seen is pretty recent and i know Yahtzee will hate it.

Amnesia.
http://img98.imageshack.us/img98/9024/boxartj.jpg

Guess what one belongs to who.

That monster on the cover looks like it has a beak for a mouth. :P

Oh lord no, no NO!
How could they do that!

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