Judge It Fully By Its Cover: Does Video Game Box Art Have A Future?


If a picture paints a thousand words, it’s clearly a fucking fantastic way to market your game by fitting what will likely be the entire length of this post into one message. The box art of video games has of course had its ups and downs but in general I think they are the most entertaining thing you can find outside the confines of the game world. They tell you what you need to know to be interested, the rest is up to the often shitty TV ads. Sad then that as the digital age comes forward they may just dwindle in numbers and possible even quality.

Physical copies for games won’t ever go away but the future as painted by the industry leans towards a digitally dominated world, with all the power it gives them for a slight convenience to the consumer. Of course they’d never miss a chance for a sale and physical copies will still be around, however the need to have such a fascinating and intriguing one  might be lost when people will easily see trailers among other things without much effort.

Without incentive to think of something fantastically original or eye catching, it will be something generic like the main character staring at you with a half-assed background. I can surely hope that there will still be those who use it as an artistic challenge and create something truly ingenious but a hope is all I will have. Arguably better methods will come forth with full gameplay of the product, advertising the largest draw for many when looking at a game. Why show someone a still of your interactive entertainment or a marketing tinged image when live footage is better for all involved…except the guy whose job it is to draw those box arts.

Of course that would have its draw backs as you need to have footage of said game readily made, streamable in a resolution appropriate to showing off the game. Or you can not and waste your time like Nintendo did with the Wii shop trailers at what I believe was 50×50 pixels if memory serves. If I were to go on the level of technological progress the game industry makes I imagine such a digital future would be when not everyone has the requirements to easily view every other high definition trailer at the appropriate framerate, in the same way we have such a varied level of internet among consumers but the games just keep wanting the best of the best. Ah well, they’ll learn eventually.

Back to my point on box art though, while I can admit it may become obsolete in many ways to the wave of new tech and new opportunities, such as to give the market the hook without commissioning an image, it feels like such a welcome obsolete. An appendix to the game industry that hangs around simple because it had a purpose, perhaps forgotten as the game industry insists upon the “no tomorrow” attitude and raises eyebrows of a new generation who find it odd you’d advertise a video game with this of all things. Back in my day you had to make it or break it with a pretty picture on a box, it was a marketing hurdle unlike any other where your entire appeal may very well hinge on looking attractive.

They also insisted on having the classic blue bomber megaman look really fucking weird. I bet it got them the sales though.

What video game boxart do you really like or caught your eye? Do you think the concept has a future with the physical side of gaming shrinking slowly? What kinds of advertising do you think would accompany a digital age of gaming? Thanks for the read and I’ll see you later.


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  1. #1 by Andy Primm on June 3, 2015 - 9:14 pm

    I feel like most games still have concept art, and that art will hopefully still be used to promote the game, much like boxart. Part of it is that in-game assets can more closely reflect concept art than in the past, so there’s less incentive to come up with evocative boxart than in the past, even on physical cases.


    • #2 by Prof.mcstevie on June 4, 2015 - 4:51 pm

      The question that sits in my mind is will people go out of their way to see the trailer of something they are browsing as easily as you might for an attractive box art? In a store physical or digital the promotional art and box art are what make me bother to go further usually.


  2. #3 by Dr Slater on June 2, 2015 - 6:59 am

    I judged Shadow of Colossus on the cover – i was satisfied. Actually i did the same with BioShock. Pretty great games.


    • #4 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:47 pm

      Its the little carrot on a stick that entices you into the rest huh.


  3. #5 by riulyn on June 2, 2015 - 4:21 am

    I’m inclined to agree with Cirsova. Bargain packaging as well as reduced quality box art is seen with the “Playstation Best” editions of games in Japan, so the idea of “cheaper game = cheaper box art” is already around.

    I’m partial to JRPGs and Suikoden so I enjoy box art where you can see a billion characters in different poses on the cover. It’s something you can look back at later after playing the game and be like “ah, this is that person…”. Except with the North American box art for Suikoden I. That case art amuses me because of how it doesn’t look like the game at all.


    • #6 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:48 pm

      I really like seeing how someone would try to capture the essence of a games appeal in a single image, it always provides interesting results.


  4. #7 by dgfishingtime on June 1, 2015 - 11:38 pm

    Box art means little to me. I immediately flip if over to the back to see what it is about. Of course this is only for games that are used. I follow games that are interesting to me. E3 is around the corner, so that is where I find the games I am interested in. Box art is just that, art. It serves some purpose, but will never sway me to make the purchase. I need to see gameplay first.

    You could have a blank case if I know what the game is for all I care. Back in the day though it was important. Not so much now in my opinion. Sony and Microsoft, as well as Steam are already using the store to display gameplay as well as screenshots for the games. You can even search by genre. This is where I think the box art comes most into play though for unknown games. If I am searching a genre, I do want it to stick out if I am just browsing. This is the only place I see it as necessary. To sell less known games.

    Word of mouth though on these types of games is still the most important. If your friend recommends it, that is and always will be the best for of advertising a game.


    • #8 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:46 pm

      I just wonder if all the screenshots and whatnot will attract people as immediately at say a pretty picture of a few of the cast or something on the front. It may change a lot about how we shop for games.


    • #9 by dgfishingtime on June 2, 2015 - 11:20 pm

      I really don’t think people window shop for games anymore. I think more and more research the games before they purchase them. Back in the day this wasn’t possible. I know every game I buy I either try the demo or find some gameplay on YouTube before I buy it.

      Cover art in my opinion is having less effect than before. With all the tools we have now to research games, spending a lot on cover art seems like a waste except maybe for indie games. You need something to stand out for those since they get less exposure.


    • #10 by Prof.mcstevie on June 3, 2015 - 12:08 am

      You say that but we still have the preorder culture alive and kicking with millions putting up money for things that they’ve never tried, along with the season pass for content that is hypothetical. We CAN research, many don’t.


    • #11 by dgfishingtime on June 3, 2015 - 2:12 am

      We still see what the game is about and gameplay though. The preorders are mainly for games that people already know they are getting no matter what. The next COD, etc. Season passes are something I have done and regretted. I didn’t buy Premium for Battlefield: Hardline just because I was so let down by the previous Premiums for BF3 and BF4.

      Many people will buy games regardless just because their friends are.


  5. #12 by rainawareness on June 1, 2015 - 10:47 pm

    “Mega Man” looking weird is off the tradition of the first box art: which was made by an artist that had never seen Mega Man before


    • #13 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:45 pm

      You’d think they’d make sure they are drawing from some form of reference, though the guy who made E.T never saw the movie so…


    • #14 by rainawareness on June 2, 2015 - 10:51 pm

      How is that possible? That movie was a huge hit


    • #15 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:52 pm

      I guess he saw only like a trailer or something, a thing with phones and a neck…..boom game.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. #16 by Cirsova on June 1, 2015 - 9:20 pm

    It’s Vinyl vs. CDs all over again! Kinda…

    I think that physical copies may move in two directions at once: a “bargain” version with minimal packaging (even less than what we saw with PS3 titles), maybe similar to those $5 click on the picture games that they have at office supply stores, while on the other end physical versions will move more towards collectors-edition only with large packaging and feelies. The downside of the latter is that those versions will often be exceptionally expensive even compared to the standard $60-$70 release cost; they’ll be vying for the same space while taking up more of it. So I predict you’ll see the major triple A titles going for digital + deluxe packs with 2nd tier and indie games going for either digital only or micro physical if they have distribution.

    As for box art, yeah, it’ll stick around, but it’ll be small and cramped or included as digital bonus material. There’s never going to be anything quite like the original box art for the PC version of Drakken again, though.


    • #17 by Prof.mcstevie on June 2, 2015 - 10:42 pm

      I will miss all the great box arts that made us so curious of a game, sometimes the artists just strike a chord within you.


  7. #18 by Modern Reviewing Nerd on June 1, 2015 - 8:43 pm

    First comment!


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