The creative director of The Last of Us says it's a "misconception" that videogames need a male-dominated cover in order to sell.
The box art for The Last of Us sparked no small amount of discussion in certain quarters of the internet because the central character on the cover is - gasp! - female. That's kind of a big deal when you consider how few box covers have been led by women over the years (very few) and particularly interesting in light of Ken Levine's recent comments about why the BioShock Infinite cover is so utterly generic and dull.
Ashley Johnson, the actress who plays Ellie - the girl on the cover - acknowledged that publishers put men on the front of games because they believe that's what sells. "It's all gamers really know - and I don't want to be sexist by any means - but I get the feeling, generally, that they think game won't sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front," she told VG247.
Creative Neil Druckmann agreed with Johnson but disagreed with the concept, and also let it be known that Naughty Dog faced pressure to slap a more conventional, male-dominated image on the front of The Last of Us box. "I believe there's a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less," he said. "I know I've been in discussions where we've been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused."
Good for Naughty Dog, and even better if the game is a hit, or at least not so much of a flop that executive-types can scapegoat it as the root of all their problems. That may (or may not) be a bit extreme, but in such a heavily male-dominated industry, even a small move like this can represent a significant risk for whoever makes it.
The PlayStation 3-exclusive The Last of Us comes out on May 7, 2013.