Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite's Bro-Tastic Cover Art

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Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite's Bro-Tastic Cover Art

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BioShock Infinite's generic cover is meant to appeal to the "uninformed."

Earlier this week, 2K Games revealed BioShock Infinite's cover, and art-lovers the world over gasped in mildly-overblown horror. Gone are the iconic Big Daddy and Little Sister. In their place is a rather generic white gentlemen posing for what appears to be the cover of Stubble, Guns and Random Sparks Magazine. It's not terrible artwork by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have the stench of the focus group about it. It's almost like a team of very talented artists decided to lump together as many clichés as possible to attract the dew-guzzling, frat-goblins who make up the bulk of the modern shooter audience. According to creative director, Ken Levine, that's exactly what happened.

"I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn't read IGN... to pick up the box and say, okay, this looks kind of cool, let me turn it over. Oh, a flying city. Look at this girl, Elizabeth on the back. Look at that creature. And start to read about it, start to think about it," he explained in an interview with Wired.

"I looked at the cover art for BioShock 1, which I was heavily involved with and love, I adored," he continued. "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."

Levine does have a point; Game packaging is meant to attract customers to the product, and the majority of people complaining about the box art were going to end up buying BioShock Infinite anyway. It's always disappointing to see crass commercialism triumph over Art! (capital A and exclamation mark included), but Levine argues that's the price we have to pay to get games like BioShock Infinite made in the first place.

"One, we need to be successful to make these types of games," he said, "and I think it's important, and I think the cover is a small price for the hardcore gamer to pay."

He did mention that 2K will be providing alternate covers that gamers can print off themselves. If you're a fan of beautiful cover art in general, I strongly suggest you get yourself some glossy paper and check out this NeoGaf thread.

Source: Wired

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Is it not simply possible to do both? I mean, the original Bioshock's cover was interesting enough to attract such a large audience and make Bioshock Infinite possible in the first place. The original Bioshock's cover managed to convey what you were in for if you bought the game.

Also, is it just me or are devs beginning to use that "we need to be successful" reason as an excuse to slack off in the art department? It's a perfectly valid reason, don't get me wrong, but there's no reason why you can't make something appealing to the masses and artistic at the same time.

Print two covers on a single sheet. Don't like Bro-oker DeWitt looking all forlorn and badass? Flip it over. There ya go: Elisabeth and Songbird or Columbia's majestic vistas or whatever else feels arbitrarily more evocative or artistically relevant.

Done. Also, /thread

WHOA NOW. What's that on the bottom right-hand corner?

"INCLUDES THE ORIGINAL BIOSHOCK!"

So... If I get Infinite, it comes with a free copy of the original? Fuckin' A.

OT: I really wasn't bothered by the Box Art. So what if it's not like the original? If the game's good, it doesn't really matter.

I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on. I've really got to question that line of thinking. The last (and possibly ONLY) time I ever did that was when I was ten years old and begging my parents for a birthday gift. Who really walks into a store, blind to any additional media of a game, and blows $60 in a heartbeat? I'd have convulsions if I saw someone doing that, even if it was a great game they were picking out. That seems like such a ballsy hypothetical move to pull if it really happens.

I really don't think we need to homogenize cover art to cast a wider net in this industry. Focus groups may get the job done, but it's just like those still frames of assorted 1st-person-shooters that all featured the same orange-tinted crosshairs. The industry can live through it's peaks and valleys, but a case of stagnation like this will only serve to push quality games farther away from the public in general.

As much as I want to condemn this decision... I can't. There's been more than a few times that the cover of a game has caught my eye because it was relevent to my interests and caused me to look at it. Conversely, as someone who couldn't be less interested in dude-bro shooters, this cover wouldn't warrant a second glance, let alone a closer inspection. But, this industry is ruled by the whims of the dude-bros, sadly. I miss the days when gaming was just for the nerds and artistic integrity wasn't so readily sacrificed to bring in "the main-stream."

Knoopdog:
I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on.

You've never missed hearing about a game and just happened to spot it on a store shelf? I know I have. Admittedly that was in the days before I really started following the medium, but that's sort of the point of this cover. They want the beer-chugging dude-bros to see this cover and go "Dude, check this out bro?! 'Merica as fuck bro!" Though I'd argue that the more interesting aspects of Bio-shock would be a huge turn-off to the frat-boy CoD crowd.

All he says about this is rendered null and void when you remember, if you would kindly, that Bioshock sold like crazy. The people who loved the first game will no doubt be eager to see what this one will be like, and the fact that Bioshock did sell so well, with a very unique and atmospheric box art, is proof that you dont need to have to win the Most Generic Coverart award to sell well to the uninformed. It's a sign of the times, i guess, where appealing to the lowest common denominator is the top priority, even if it only bumps up sales by a marginal amount.

Sylveria:

Knoopdog:
I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on.

You've never missed hearing about a game and just happened to spot it on a store shelf? I know I have. Admittedly that was in the days before I really started following the medium, but that's sort of the point of this cover. They want the beer-chugging dude-bros to see this cover and go "Dude, check this out bro?! 'Merica as fuck bro!" Though I'd argue that the more interesting aspects of Bio-shock would be a huge turn-off to the frat-boy CoD crowd.

Like I said, not since I was very young and didn't have the moral fortitude to consider my parent's finances. I did start following the game industry pretty heavily around fourteen years of age, so maybe I do have a head start on most, but it still seems implausible to me that people would be so casual about huge investments like these. A fool and his money, I suppose...

the funny thing is that this box art has lost me as a customer. I didn't recognise it as bioshock initially and once I realised it the design has failed to make me wanna buy it. seriously it looks like a far cry or jagged alliance rip off going by the artwork, yeah no sale.

neonsword13-ops:
WHOA NOW. What's that on the bottom right-hand corner?

"INCLUDES THE ORIGINAL BIOSHOCK!"

So... If I get Infinite, it comes with a free copy of the original? Fuckin' A.

OT: I really wasn't bothered by the Box Art. So what if it's not like the original? If the game's good, it doesn't really matter.

Only if you get the PS3 version you get Bioshock 1.

It's a sad world when people are making purchasing decisions based on box art.

Oh well, at least Levine is being blunt and honest here. Can't really fault them.

If thats the boxart its coming to Europe with then its a good thing i dont make my purchase decisions based off the cover.

IamLEAM1983:
Print two covers on a single sheet. Don't like Bro-oker DeWitt looking all forlorn and badass? Flip it over. There ya go: Elisabeth and Songbird or Columbia's majestic vistas or whatever else feels arbitrarily more evocative or artistically relevant.

Done. Also, /thread

Came in the thread just to say this. Seriously. We even have a recent precedent with Mass Effect 3 giving both Sheps a cover.

Knoopdog:

Sylveria:

Knoopdog:
I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on.

You've never missed hearing about a game and just happened to spot it on a store shelf? I know I have. Admittedly that was in the days before I really started following the medium, but that's sort of the point of this cover. They want the beer-chugging dude-bros to see this cover and go "Dude, check this out bro?! 'Merica as fuck bro!" Though I'd argue that the more interesting aspects of Bio-shock would be a huge turn-off to the frat-boy CoD crowd.

Like I said, not since I was very young and didn't have the moral fortitude to consider my parent's finances. I did start following the game industry pretty heavily around fourteen years of age, so maybe I do have a head start on most, but it still seems implausible to me that people would be so casual about huge investments like these. A fool and his money, I suppose...

Where do you live that $60 is a "huge investment"? That's not even half a week's pay working a part time (20-hour week) minimum-wage McJob (A work schedule usually used by bill-free teenagers).

I know a lot of people (such as myself) who will come into the store look for a game that appeals to their interest and offers something new enough to be interesting without being so different as to be just plain weird (I've seen a lot of that on cover art), flip it over, and see what the game actually has to offer. If it perks their interest, they'll either buy it there if they have the cash to spend, or do a bit more research on it (Such as asking friends, or play a demo if one's offered)... or they look for it second hand/from a rental service/etc and check it out there before either buying it (if previously rented), or advertising to their other dudebros (if bought second-hand/bargain bin)

Why not be like a lot of PS3 games and have reversible covers? I fucking love some of those.

I can see where the guy is coming from, and I do agree with him. As uninteresting as the box-art is...you'll only be looking at it for about twenty minutes of your entire life.

Does he realize the things he's talking about aren't mutually exclusive?

Am I the only one who looks at this and /doesn't/ see the stereotypical dudebro shooter cover? The guy is pretty clearly wearing period costume and holding a blunderbuss. That doesn't exactly scream modern combat to me.

burningdragoon:

IamLEAM1983:
Print two covers on a single sheet. Don't like Bro-oker DeWitt looking all forlorn and badass? Flip it over. There ya go: Elisabeth and Songbird or Columbia's majestic vistas or whatever else feels arbitrarily more evocative or artistically relevant.

Done. Also, /thread

Came in the thread just to say this. Seriously. We even have a recent precedent with Mass Effect 3 giving both Sheps a cover.

Only because Femshep BioWare Fanboys whined so much that it spammed their forums.

It's a big shame that 2K went with a generic art box but so what? Move on, you're buying to play the damn game not to stare at the bloody cover.

I can certainly understand and sympathize with that line of reasoning i suppose, but i still kind of have an issue with this.

1. Was it so hard to have both elements? I mean couldn't they have had Booker's generic looking ass in the center then have Columbia and all the cool looking new enemies behind him with the song bird as a big ass looming shadow overhead? You would still have the generic one-dude standing with a gun prerequisite but at least it would be more interesting and you know...DIFFERENTIATE yourself?

2. This is a SEQUEL, (a 2nd one as well), of a well known franchise at this point. Brand recognition alone should pull just as if not MORE sales then a safe looking cover art to be familiar to the "average" shooter fan? I would think the vast majority of big shooter fans know what Bioshock is right? I could completely understand this reasoning for a new IP but you shouldn't really need it with this game.

3. Am I the only one who had this thought...That Ken Levine likes this cover cause Booker looks like him? This isn't some insult or anything, I generally like the dude as far as developers go. just a funny thought i had about it..."this covers perfect, people will see ME looking badd-ass as hell" lol

Scow2:

Knoopdog:

Sylveria:

You've never missed hearing about a game and just happened to spot it on a store shelf? I know I have. Admittedly that was in the days before I really started following the medium, but that's sort of the point of this cover. They want the beer-chugging dude-bros to see this cover and go "Dude, check this out bro?! 'Merica as fuck bro!" Though I'd argue that the more interesting aspects of Bio-shock would be a huge turn-off to the frat-boy CoD crowd.

Like I said, not since I was very young and didn't have the moral fortitude to consider my parent's finances. I did start following the game industry pretty heavily around fourteen years of age, so maybe I do have a head start on most, but it still seems implausible to me that people would be so casual about huge investments like these. A fool and his money, I suppose...

Where do you live that $60 is a "huge investment"? That's not even half a week's pay working a part time (20-hour week) minimum-wage McJob (A work schedule usually used by bill-free teenagers).

I know a lot of people (such as myself) who will come into the store look for a game that appeals to their interest and offers something new enough to be interesting without being so different as to be just plain weird (I've seen a lot of that on cover art), flip it over, and see what the game actually has to offer. If it perks their interest, they'll either buy it there if they have the cash to spend, or do a bit more research on it (Such as asking friends, or play a demo if one's offered)... or they look for it second hand/from a rental service/etc and check it out there before either buying it (if previously rented), or advertising to their other dudebros (if bought second-hand/bargain bin)

A huge investment? No. A significant chunk of change? Yeah. You can feed yourself quite well for a week on $60. Heck, you can feed yourself adequately on $40 a week if you don't mind eating a lot of processed crap. Not to mention, that's a full tank of gas in a lot of cars. When you're getting into the territory of "a full week's grocery budget/a full tank of gas," you're kind of stepping out of impulse buy territory.

Um, quick question. Where are people getting this silly notion that any previous Bioshock's box art was good? They were pretty generic as well. "big daddy is about to punch you" and "Delta glares at you." This is par for the course.

Scow2:

Knoopdog:

Sylveria:

You've never missed hearing about a game and just happened to spot it on a store shelf? I know I have. Admittedly that was in the days before I really started following the medium, but that's sort of the point of this cover. They want the beer-chugging dude-bros to see this cover and go "Dude, check this out bro?! 'Merica as fuck bro!" Though I'd argue that the more interesting aspects of Bio-shock would be a huge turn-off to the frat-boy CoD crowd.

Like I said, not since I was very young and didn't have the moral fortitude to consider my parent's finances. I did start following the game industry pretty heavily around fourteen years of age, so maybe I do have a head start on most, but it still seems implausible to me that people would be so casual about huge investments like these. A fool and his money, I suppose...

Where do you live that $60 is a "huge investment"? That's not even half a week's pay working a part time (20-hour week) minimum-wage McJob (A work schedule usually used by bill-free teenagers).

I know a lot of people (such as myself) who will come into the store look for a game that appeals to their interest and offers something new enough to be interesting without being so different as to be just plain weird (I've seen a lot of that on cover art), flip it over, and see what the game actually has to offer. If it perks their interest, they'll either buy it there if they have the cash to spend, or do a bit more research on it (Such as asking friends, or play a demo if one's offered)... or they look for it second hand/from a rental service/etc and check it out there before either buying it (if previously rented), or advertising to their other dudebros (if bought second-hand/bargain bin)

Some context:

College student. Community college bills, soon to be state university bills. I'd imagine quite a few "dudebros" find themselves in a similar situation, barring the few who walk away with scholarship funds. Working 20+ hours a week in my state, my average check may come to $300-$350, and that's if my schedule isn't messed with in any way.

So I have rent, phone, groceries, holiday expenses, various utility and health bills, and more. So, yes, $60 goes a LONG way. For a graduate/full-time adult? I couldn't tell you. I'm not at that stage of my life yet, but I would still find it hard to believe someone in their twenties or thirties can casually drop some hefty chunks of change like that without at least researching it via popular media channels like Gametrailers.

Now, if we're talking high school teenagers here, I can begin to believe the idea a bit more. I've met enough rich kids to learn their flippant purchasing habits. Regardless, even focusing on them ignores people who are college age or up who DO have various financial responsibilities.

EDIT: "Huge investment" may have been implying more of a financial risk than I wanted to. "Significant chunk of change" like the above poster said is a fairer term.

Korten12:
Only if you get the PS3 version you get Bioshock 1.

<- Is a PS3 gamer.

image

Awesome.

I already have Bioshock 1 for PS3, but maybe I could just let my friend have it since he sold his 360 copy.

Korten12:

neonsword13-ops:
WHOA NOW. What's that on the bottom right-hand corner?

"INCLUDES THE ORIGINAL BIOSHOCK!"

So... If I get Infinite, it comes with a free copy of the original? Fuckin' A.

OT: I really wasn't bothered by the Box Art. So what if it's not like the original? If the game's good, it doesn't really matter.

Only if you get the PS3 version you get Bioshock 1.

Dammit! You mean I bought the PS3 version of Bioshock for nothing!? >.<
Well can't return it now, so only one thing to do then. *goes off to play Bioshock*

OT: I do have to say that I don't get why they can't just print two different covers on one sheet. Heck a lot of games do it now. The Jak HD Collection did it, as did Dream Drop Distance, and Dissidia Duodecim.

Sylveria:
As much as I want to condemn this decision... I can't. There's been more than a few times that the cover of a game has caught my eye because it was relevent to my interests and caused me to look at it. Conversely, as someone who couldn't be less interested in dude-bro shooters, this cover wouldn't warrant a second glance, let alone a closer inspection. But, this industry is ruled by the whims of the dude-bros, sadly. I miss the days when gaming was just for the nerds and artistic integrity wasn't so readily sacrificed to bring in "the main-stream."

Wait, then what was the Mass Effect 3 controversy, what with all of it's talk of "artistic integrity", about? I am so confused...

OT: I can see the logic behind what he says, but it is a damn shame we didn't get something more interesting nonetheless. Ah well, here's hoping the game is as good as it is being hyped to be! :D

jollybarracuda:
All he says about this is rendered null and void when you remember, if you would kindly, that Bioshock sold like crazy. The people who loved the first game will no doubt be eager to see what this one will be like, and the fact that Bioshock did sell so well, with a very unique and atmospheric box art, is proof that you dont need to have to win the Most Generic Coverart award to sell well to the uninformed. It's a sign of the times, i guess, where appealing to the lowest common denominator is the top priority, even if it only bumps up sales by a marginal amount.

Pretty much this. The first two BioShocks sold really well, in spite of their covers not appealing to dude bros.

Knoopdog:
I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on.

Well you can question them.

RicoADF:
the funny thing is that this box art has lost me as a customer. I didn't recognise it as bioshock initially and once I realised it the design has failed to make me wanna buy it. seriously it looks like a far cry or jagged alliance rip off going by the artwork, yeah no sale.

But here is one for you. Doesnt care how awesome the game will be, but because they dont like the box cover, no sale!

SO yeah, it seems they know that there are some people who only care about the box cover like Rico here instead of the game thats inside the cover.

It's not really any more "generic" than Bioshock 2's cover was.

image

At least this one has the zeppelin and burning flag in the background to spice things up a bit.

Besides, like Owyn_Merrilin said, MacGuyver there is clearly wearing Victorian-esque-era clothing and carrying a blunderbuss. What's so "dudebro" about it? The pose? The fact that *gasp* he's carrying a gun? Or that it's a grizzled middle-aged male? Those don't really scream "DUDEFRATBRO!" to me so much as wish fulfillment fantasy.

To be frank, I don't have an issue with the cover. Hell, I only really notice the cover of my games maybe 10% of the time when I take them off the shelf, so it's not like it was ever something that I'd have to stare at all the time. If it really bugs me, at worst I can simply print off a different cover for the game. None of it matters though, since I'm going to be focused on the game, not the package it came in.

Further, I don't understand all these complaints of "But the other box-arts were so much better! Why couldn't you stick to something like those?", because have you seen the covers for Bioshock 1 and 2? They are definitely not some sort of pinnacle in box-art design. In fact, those covers were pretty much exactly the same as the one we see here for Infinite.

And hey, if this cover does end up bringing in more sales, I say go for it. Sure it's going to bring in sales anyways, but I'm not going to cry foul because a company decided to go with a means to bring in sales that didn't directly affect or change the main product.

I think if they had the dude fightin one of those hilariously scary Washingtonborgs on the cover, it'd sell twice as much.

RicoADF:
the funny thing is that this box art has lost me as a customer. I didn't recognise it as bioshock initially and once I realised it the design has failed to make me wanna buy it. seriously it looks like a far cry or jagged alliance rip off going by the artwork, yeah no sale.

wow.....petty much?

its boxart..would you kindly get over it and suport a game that (hopefully) deserves to be suported?

LtFerret:
Um, quick question. Where are people getting this silly notion that any previous Bioshock's box art was good? They were pretty generic as well. "big daddy is about to punch you" and "Delta glares at you." This is par for the course.

You can argue that their layouts aren't great, but I don't think you can argue that the covers aren't distinctive. How many games can you name with a giant in a diving suit carrying a little girl on the cover? How many can you name on which a white man holds a gun and stares off into the middle distance while something explodes/catches fire?

Edits: Jesus Christ. Typos.

Why stop there 2K? You could always put Elizabeth in a bikini besides him. Why not add a cigar in his mouth while we are at it? You might wanna add some blood there too. It looks lifeless this way.And why use weak flares when you can set the fucking cover on fire?

You know what this guy needs? A minigun.

FelixG:

Knoopdog:
I keep hearing some developers and industry figureheads saying that box art often is the only factor some gamers make their purchasing decisions on.

Well you can question them.

RicoADF:
the funny thing is that this box art has lost me as a customer. I didn't recognise it as bioshock initially and once I realised it the design has failed to make me wanna buy it. seriously it looks like a far cry or jagged alliance rip off going by the artwork, yeah no sale.

But here is one for you. Doesnt care how awesome the game will be, but because they dont like the box cover, no sale!

SO yeah, it seems they know that there are some people who only care about the box cover like Rico here instead of the game thats inside the cover.

Vault101:

RicoADF:
the funny thing is that this box art has lost me as a customer. I didn't recognise it as bioshock initially and once I realised it the design has failed to make me wanna buy it. seriously it looks like a far cry or jagged alliance rip off going by the artwork, yeah no sale.

wow.....petty much?

its boxart..would you kindly get over it and suport a game that (hopefully) deserves to be suported?

And would you 2 kindly ask why I may have that view rather than make wrong assumptions?

If it was a new IP it would be a different matter, and heck if it was meant to be a game like one of them then it'd be apropriate (a military shooter/just cause style game). But it's supose to be bioshock. While yes the box is just 1 (generally small) part of the process of deciding weather a game is worth spending $110 AUD (or far more for collectors edition), it still has an impact especially during this time where we have no reviews to go on weather its worth risking the huge investment of pre-ordering to get the one time sets.

In this case, the reason I see it as a "lost a sale" until the game comes out and I get more information from players, is that its depicting a vastly different style and tone of game with the huge change of box art style which suggests the gameplay and story has also vastly changed.

Also the fact it's be admitted that this is to increase appeal to the wider audience gives the concern that the game could be dumbed down for a broader audience. Too many games have gone that route and been ruined, too much money wasted on a game series destroyed that way, so I'm erring on the side of caution. Once it comes out and the feedback comes through, then I'll decide if it's worth the money, until then their not getting $110-150 AUD for the PS3 version collectors edition (or $80-$120 for PC), approx.

To summerise - it's not that I find Bioshock's box art special or that this one is awlful, but rather the massive change of style may indicate a similarly change of the game making it seem like a risk to order blindly.

EDIT: I should probably note that whenever I pre-order I get the collectors edition, as I see it if I'm going to pay premium price for a game on day one, I'm going to get the premium game with physical extras. Otherwise I just wait and get the game during a steam sale. Also should note that I will ofcourse be following news on the game and if the info being revealed as time goes on indicates that the first impression is wrong, then I'll change my stance.

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