When Irrational Games unveiled the covert art for BioShock Infinite last week, the reception was mixed. Studio creative director Ken Levine acknowledged this in a new Wired interview, saying he understands that some fans may be disappointed, but the decision was not made without much consideration and forethought.
"We went and did a tour… around to a bunch of, like, frathouses and places like that. People who were gamers. Not people who read IGN. And [we] said, 'So, have you guys heard of BioShock?' Not a single one of them had heard of it."
Levine then likened games to salad dressing. His point being, just because some gamers do not keep up to date with the happenings of the business does not mean they are any less important to market to. In fact, he said it is the opposite; these gamers are keeping the business alive.
"Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us, but… there are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea," Levine said. "I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly. I don’t care who makes it, I don’t know any of the personalities in the salad dressing business. For some people, [games are] like salad dressing. Or movies, or TV shows. It was definitely a reality check for us."
Levine added that in order for BioShock Infinite and games in a similar vein to continue to be made, they must be financially successful. And this could not be achieved without marketing efforts aimed at the right people in the right way.
"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," he said. "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."
Those who were not pleased with the BioShock Infinite box art may be happy to learn that Irrational Games will release a set of alternate covers that gamers can download and print. These were not specified at any length, but Levine said Irrational will work with the community to decide how to best move forward.
"We had to make that tradeoff in terms of where we were spending our marketing dollars. By the time you get to the store, or see an ad, the BioShock fan knows about the game. The money we’re spending on PR, the conversations with games journalists--that's for the fans," he said. "For the people who aren’t informed, that’s who the box art is for."