American Box Art Sucks

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once again subjectivity misconstrued as objectivity. i don't see how any box art is better than any other and to randomly claim that one country's box art sucks doesn't make it true.

plus i have yet to see box art from bioware or EA that sucks. most of our blockbusters look good. no one can really say that box art for Red Dead Redemption or Mass Effect is really bad.
Besides that, we like seeing who our protagonists are. so we'll know who and what we'll be playing as. most of your examples are old and (by now) don't matter, so don't bitch about nothing

Sauvastika:
If it's any consolation, PAL box art for SNES games were terri-bad, while the US covers were, for the most part, okay.

Art Lesson #1: Giant, obstrusive borders make for bad box art

Not just the SNES, PAL regions always got the shitty boxart in the PS1/N64 era.

Why is he losing touch with his British side there are many great British artists.

Why are American versions worse?
Simple.
Ruining perfectly good things is practically our national hobby. Why drink one can of beer when you can have twenty? Why throw a ball around when you can throw darts at eachother? Why have a descriptive cover when you can show a white guy punching an alien in the face?

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.

You mean ICO, which came out in the PS2 era, and Heavy Rain, which came out only last year?

Because American box art is controlled by a committee of people with marketing degrees, instead of a few artists with any skill in design.

A few of my favorites...

Mass Effect 2 - Collector's Edition
http://files.g4tv.com/ImageDb3/181672_S/Mass-Effect-2-Collectors-Edition-Detailed.jpg

Left 4 Dead
http://fastcache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/9/2008/08/medium_left_4_dead_boxart.jpg

Fallout 3
http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101021004329/videogame/images/thumb/8/84/Fallout_3_(Box_Art).png/250px-Fallout_3_(Box_Art).png

Farcry 2 (PAL version or US Gamestop pre-order sleeve cover)
http://www.xgn.nl/images/boxarts/ps3/big/far-cry-2.jpg

The Witcher (original red edition)
http://media.giantbomb.com/uploads/0/4005/242764-the_witcher_boxart_super.jpg

The Elder Scolls IV: Oblivion
http://i30.photobucket.com/albums/c331/Trazac/the-elder-scrolls-iv-oblivion-box.jpg

Knights of the Old Republic
http://image.com.com/gamespot/images/bigboxshots/5/516675_47672_front.jpg

(Yeah, I know KotoR is one of those 'collage' covers, but it's also an awesomely good homage to the style of the movie posters for the original trilogy. So its easily one of my favorites. Hell for what it's worth, I think it's better than the posters for the new trilogy too.)

SamElliot'sMustache:

Do you all just genuinely have the aesthetic sense of a kipper, or is this part of that big "defiance of authority" thing you guys have going that makes you equate "stubborn pig ignorance" with "down homey wisdom"?

The second one. And, as an American, it perplexes me on so many levels.

I love the public's opinions on Politicians (not just America, mind)

Someone has an opinion, changes said opinion based on new facts and/or convincing argument: Common Sense.

Politician does the same thing: Untrustworthy flip-flopper.

I don't like the box art, nor do many others. I really, really wish we got the same kind of box art, but you seem to think that we have some kind of control over this kind of thing, when we just don't.

I find Yahtzee's bagging of America a little annoying and bordering on near racist funny sometimes or not. Everything is all so blah when it comes to us. I know we're not renowned in the world, but really, talk about stereotyping more than a neo-nazi. I agree the whole box art thing can be both good and bad, there's some box art I've seen from other countries that suck just as much as our tend to. Plus not every American on the planet is a complete moron with no sense of art or knowledge outside out little country.

It's both the mainstream audiences and the companies that choose to change the covers into blandness. Heavy Rain allows the player to see the characters, and Madison is in the middle in her underwear why? Because America knows sex sells, the boxes aren't designed after what looks more artsy they're designed by those committees douche bags Yahtzee always tends to mention who know or think they know what statistically will get sales and what won't. Either way it's not American's it's the American companies.

It must be taste because...I kinda like the american box art for future wars better...

Robborboy:
>snip<

uh...are you being sarcastic? youve taken ONE boxart, terribly over-analyzed it, then chastized me for not seeing the symbolism you made up about a cover i never said anything about.

and besides whatever you see in the box art, it needs to have an obvious theme to it that draws your attention before you notice any little details; a lone figure in an environment for an adventure game, a mugshot of various characters for an RPG, something like that. in the enslaved boxart, my first thought is "2 people running from a giant robot". now i havent played the game, so maybe running from giant robots is a big part of the gameplay or story, but whether this is indicative of the game or not is irrelevant to my argument because you completely ignored the most obvious aspect of the boxart in favor of inventing symbolism for the minor details.

This is a cover for a video game, not the centerpiece of an art exhibit. There is no point in admiring any small details if it cant express what the game is like to begin with; as i said, havent played it, so i cant judge that, but please consider that the purpose of boxart is to draw attention to a game, not be studied for interpretation.

mjc0961:
Yup. We sure get some weird boxart over here in the States. I also submit for this discussion, Kirby:

Last one is a joke obviously, but really, why did they keep making Kirby angry on our box art?

indeed.

10BIT:
Here is a nice comparison between American and Japanese box art.

I love how Kirby has to be angry in America.

Now I'm just as confused as Yahtzee is with the box art changes.

But I think, maybe, it's for reasons similar to say... why Disney went from showing off great G-rated animated movies like Aladdin or Tarzan to throwing Hannah Montana on stage and calling it a night.

In other words, I think the American box artists think they're getting to the American mainstream with their way of doing it.

I once again feel ashamed with being American....

I think there are several issues.

1) We Americans aren't exposed to art. Most other countries have artistic traditions that go back many hundreds if not thousands of years, and cities where statues are crowded shoulder-to-shoulder. Not so here.

2) Average Americans don't know a damn thing about art. When school budget cuts are made, and they are always being made, art is the first thing to go.

3) The games industry desperately wants to be Hollywood and the marketers model their audience theories on the film industry's. Hollywood's entire existence is based on pandering to the stupidest among us who need everything spelled out and are frightened of ambiguity (a self-fulfilling prophecy).

4) On the one hand, most American gamers want space marines, guns, (American) football, big identifiable faces, and a feeling that "Playing this game will make me a bad ass." On the other hand, we are enticed by the mystery of what we will face in the game, but put off if the gameplay type itself is a mystery. The original Ico cover looks like it's about outrunning windmills. The European Heavy Rain cover looks like an origami simulator. They are certainly more beautiful and better compositions, but American gamers want to grasp the premise in some way. Ico actually is about a boy in a castle carrying a plank, so in a way the American cover is more indicative of the experience if not the style. I haven't played Heavy Rain but from what I understand it's very character-driven and the American cover shows you the people you will meet inside.

5) American business is extremely copy-cat driven. If a competitor's game sells well then American executives will demand their next game have similar box art.

6) Since the early days of American videogames the box art has been a target of corner cutting. Consider the Megaman cover Yahtzee linked to -- why does it suck so bad? Could it be they hired a high school student to do it for pennies?

7) Since foreign-owned companies don't know any better they hire fast-talking marketers rather than talented artists to localize their products at the lowest possible cost.

8) Localization departments for foreign-owned companies need to justify their existence and constantly make up bullshit tasks for themselves like "improving" box art. The thinking goes like this: If the localization team had just used the original ICO cover, what is Sony paying them for?

Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition has great boxart...in the PAL regions!

image

but the US got this instead...

image

Which one looks scarier?

As something of an American (I was born there, that's about as deep as my connection to the US goes. I have no love for it), I will try to answer your questions. The first, and easiest, question to answer is "Why does America hate French videogame developers?". This is easy: they're French. For some bizarre reason (that I have yet to fathom), many Americans detest the French. I'm sure it's partly due to many Americans believing that everyone in France is a stuck-up snob, but also because of their two famous surrenders during both World Wars. Somehow many Americans simply can't forgive them for surrendering like that (cheese-eating surrender monkey is a slur I've heard passed around America against the French). For surrendering the French are seen as weak, and thus something to be ridiculed. This is despite their long history of military accomplishments before World War I, including the successes of Napoleon Bonaparte, the seemingly eternal wars with England throughout the Middle Ages (yeah, okay, there were lots of ups and downs for both sides), and allying with the Americans during the Revolutionary War (without their help, the US wouldn't even exist... and yet Americans ridicule them... quite odd).

As for the US box art being as terrible as it is, I have an idea for why this is so. Americans are, in general, an action oriented people. Americans like brave heroes, tales of danger, gunfights, and insanely massive explosions (which explains much of the success of Michael Bay). Most of the US box are you've linked to shows some kind of action going on, and many of it prominently features some form of weapon (it's even being used in one instance). Most of the Japanese and European box art is subtle. It's also arty, and if there are two things anathema to many Americans they are artiness and subtlety. Art is often seen in the US as a foolish endeavor. It doesn't bring in much (if any) money, it isn't action oriented, and it's often seen as the province of weaklings. Artists get very little respect, writers are scorned (unless they're writing the latest bland, vomit-inducing garbage to be gobbled wholesale by the masses, which helps explain the successes of both Stephanie Meyer and Stephen King), and intellectualism itself is often under attack ("They're an intellectual." is the most damning political attack possible, outside of "They're a Marxist/Communist.", in many areas of the US).

I hope I've answered your questions without rambling on for too long.

Pugiron:
So you blame American consumers for art choices made by a few foreign game companies when they import things here? Thats like blaming Australians for "choosing" to have Paul hogan be their national spokesman for 20 years, or the British for "picking" the ugliest royal family in history.

Other than 'shrimp on the BARBIE' he did a good job and we stand by our choice!

Melodic Fury:
I'm sure it's partly due to many Americans believing that everyone in France is a stuck-up snob, but also because of their two famous surrenders during both World Wars.

You do realise that France never actually surrendered during World War I, right?

Tom Phoenix:

Melodic Fury:
I'm sure it's partly due to many Americans believing that everyone in France is a stuck-up snob, but also because of their two famous surrenders during both World Wars.

You do realise that France never actually surrendered during World War I, right?

I do. A lot of people in the US don't, though.

Melodic Fury:

Tom Phoenix:

Melodic Fury:
I'm sure it's partly due to many Americans believing that everyone in France is a stuck-up snob, but also because of their two famous surrenders during both World Wars.

You do realise that France never actually surrendered during World War I, right?

I do. A lot of people in the US don't, though.

Fair enough. I guess that only goes to show how poorly educated people tend to be regarding history.

I sometimes believe that crappy box art are intensional in order to make the more expensive "Special Editions" more appealing. Not just for games, but everything from electronic devices to cars. As an artist, it irritates me to buy games with so-so box art but not enough to cause me not to buy a game I want.

I checked the whole thread, and found only a dismissive passing mention of the real reason: Focus groups!

All American marketing is, sooner or later, done by focus groups. These are found by taking about a thousand people off the street, then offering them the choice between either a Bud Light, or a barleywine from a craft brewery located just outside Asscrack of Nowhere, Oregon. They take the ones that react most violently to the craft beer and show them progressively more mainstream beers until they've found twenty individuals who are so threatened by unique experiences that they're shitting their pants with cannon force at the sight of a Coors nestled among their Bud Light.

Having found their focus group, they sit them down in a room and show them the product. Then, they do everything the focus group tells them to, even or especially if they contradict one another.

This is why Americans never seem happy with their president; the guy got elected by the same process that fuels focus groups.

You can see the slow death of American commercial art in service of imaginative fiction by observing the abrupt decline in quality for Star Trek book covers.

The first ones were adaptations of the show by James Blish. The first one is cool in a "Forbidden Planet" sort of way, much like the show's original concept, but the next couple just used publicity stills. The fourth book had a really nice painting of the Enterprise. But the fifth one, holy crap:

http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Star_Trek_5

(I'd post the art itself, but I don't want to flood the thread.)

And some of the others were just as awesome.

http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Star_Trek_6
http://memory-alpha.org/wiki/Star_Trek_8

Then came the novels, and here's a page that says it shows all of them.

http://www.trekkieguy.com/reviews_covers.shtml

The first dozen or so still depict alien vistas so on, but the ambition is clearly starting to slip even then. Five of them pasted the same clip-art of the Enterprise onto unrelated space art paintings. Still, a few of them are are pretty decent -- Mudd's Angels really stands out for example.

But after "The Motion Picture" in 1979 the books started flying like mad and the artistic bottom just fell out as far as covers went.

Now it's all collages in a single rigid formula similar to romance novels: Two-three actors looking concerned as a spaceship flies overhead. Much like every video game cover in the U.S.

That's a good question. Another good question is why you see fit to disparage America at every turn.

A number of excellent examples are mentioned in this article and I do think that quite a bit of North American box art is pretty awful, but I don't pay too much attention to it myself. I buy a game based on whether or not the story and gameplay appeal to me. The boxes go on a shelf and all I can read are the spines. As long as the game itself is good I can get past it. I started gaming in the era of the Atari 2600 so I guess I have come to accept bad/deceptive box art as part of the deal. Perhaps it will all change for the better.

Frotality:

Robborboy:
>snip<

uh...are you being sarcastic? youve taken ONE boxart, terribly over-analyzed it, then chastized me for not seeing the symbolism you made up about a cover i never said anything about.

and besides whatever you see in the box art, it needs to have an obvious theme to it that draws your attention before you notice any little details; a lone figure in an environment for an adventure game, a mugshot of various characters for an RPG, something like that. in the enslaved boxart, my first thought is "2 people running from a giant robot". now i havent played the game, so maybe running from giant robots is a big part of the gameplay or story, but whether this is indicative of the game or not is irrelevant to my argument because you completely ignored the most obvious aspect of the boxart in favor of inventing symbolism for the minor details.

This is a cover for a video game, not the centerpiece of an art exhibit. There is no point in admiring any small details if it cant express what the game is like to begin with; as i said, havent played it, so i cant judge that, but please consider that the purpose of boxart is to draw attention to a game, not be studied for interpretation.

Not sarcastic in the least. Pretty much American cover if looked at can be broken apart like that. You say I over analyzed it? Is that not what is being done with box-arts that are claimed to be "superior"? American box-arts set out tot ell a story about the game, simple as that. Naturally you have your exceptions such as Morrowind, but even then it can be broken down to tell a bit about the game. I invented no such symbolism. People may want to cry about the art, but they are put together by intelligent people to give a snapshot of the game. Not to look artsy ala Heavy Rain. All that cover gives you is rain and a killer having something to do with origami. And even then all of that is provided in the title.

You are correct, it is the cover of a video game. A piece of software that many people pour hours upon hours in making. Often forgoing sustenance and sleep in favor of putting together what is essentially their "love child". A video game that has hundred of thousands of many hours into is no less a work of art than say, a painting that took 3 years to complete.

And likewise the art is meant to convey a bit about the game. Be it a shallow amount ala Heavy Rain's Japanese cover, or the deep amount that is conveyed in what is Enslaved's American art that many a person only views as eye candy. But as you say, it may not be "meant" to be analyzed. However, the fact of the matter is that the people who put them together use all forms of symbolism that can me analyzed. And even something as mundane as the McDonald's golden arch is overflowing with symbolism.

believer258:

Falseprophet:
Clearly it's because of Microsoft's position in the gaming industry, and we know what they think of minimalism:

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

Yes, because nearly nothing on the box is definitely going to do a much better job of telling everyone exactly what they'll be doing in their next $60 gaming purchase.

Yatzhee, I'm no big fan of box art at all, but none of them - not even foreign ones - ever really caught my eye, with one exception. Super Metroid's is about the only one that caught my eye, the American one of that was Samus shooting Ridley with some monsters in the background. At about 5 years old, that looked pretty awesome. But it wasn't the box art I remembered, it was the game. I'm finding this to be a very trivial thing to bitch about. You mean that out of all of the problems with modern gaming, you had to mention box art? What's more, you only mentioned American box art. If you really don't like us that much, fine - keep your ass out of here - but you really don't need to keep calling us out for all the world's fucking problems.

Hell Ya

I thought it was abundantly clear that Americans lack taste.

In France and Japan I imagine their respective marketing departments considered video games entertainment on par with films (considering the popularity of cut scenes and FMV in the 90s) while in America they never seemed to shed that function of being a toy and appealing to the base instincts of the young gamer.

This biggest disconnect to me comes with the horrid American box art for Broken Sword: http://www.mobygames.com/game/circle-of-blood/cover-art/gameCoverId,27422/

Compare that to a more intriguing European cover: http://www.mobygames.com/game/circle-of-blood/cover-art/gameCoverId,1387/

I've heard people in the gaming industry blame the death of adventure games on this! Not that I agree with that assessment but still... first impressions do count.

I think perhaps there is a bit of overreaction, but I do see what he means.

I think the people making the American box-art think people are stupid and treat them like so, by making the main character obvious and making it seem combat oriented, and they think that makes them sales. They aren't interested in art or making things intriguing or original, they wants the $.

can't blame any country for not wanting to be like the French lawlz

but hm...let's be comparing more recent games (plenty of examples there too)

cefm:
Phalanx probably takes the cake. Bad from both perspectives in that it says nothing about the game and nothing about the main character.

image

no, but it is different as all get out, the old man with a banjo on the cover of a game, pretty much demeaned a rental back then just to figure out what the fuck was going on, then i found out it was a shooter, and pretty good one at that

I like how people who are outside of America have us figured out. I guess our own main stream media thinks we are idiots. Which explains why the media was so surprised with the last election. But don't under estimate us A-hole. Although I would say that Namco did a good job with Pac-man (I will admit to being juvenile sometimes).

You want great box art, take a gander at Max Payne 2.

Simple. Elegant. Beautiful. Plus it basically condenses the entire game into a single, breath-taking image.

We hate that US box art sucks, but we don't really have control over it. I believe that marketing heads think we are less sophisticated than they give us credit for.

because the US cannot understand a silly thing such as story.

good thing us Aussies tend to have euro boxs

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