Ken Levine: BioShock Infinite box art for the uninformed

Irrational Games' creative director says he expected some of the blowback, likens games to salad dressing; alternate cover art will also be available.

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."

BioShock Infinite was delayed last week and is now due March 26, 2013. For more, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

238 comments
kkrakhed
kkrakhed

Seriously, who hasn't heard of bioshock?  My grandpa?  He hasn't btw....   ;]

Mortos13
Mortos13

ermahgerd people! Its just art >:( get over it!

unwell-7
unwell-7

Ken Levine has a point people. Kick ass dudes on game box art sell. Plain and simple. If I knew nothing about Bioshock Infinite, and I saw a babe on the front, my immediate assumption is that I would be playing as a babe and probably ignore the cover. And as a guy gamer I would personally like to play as a kick ass dude (with a few exceptions: Tomb Raider reboot, Bayonetta). I can't tell you how many RPG games I've ignored due to the box art being uninteresting because its littered with a bunch of anime looking girls. Also, its an industry where the majority of the market are dudes. You don't see male models modelling for makeup products or adds. So for all those ultra feminist pricks that are trying to stamp a vagina on everything male dominated, these are the facts of life. Deal with it.

toddx77
toddx77

Of course people at frat houses are not going to know what Bioshock infinite is.  All they know is Call of Duty, Gears of War, and maybe Madden.  Besides I find it hard to believe that the advertisements wouldn't reach those people in the frat house because they probably play on xbox and on the dash board I am sure they will see it in some way or another.  

Deugar
Deugar

To me, this type of boxart is nothing but an expression of cynicism. It's kind of depressing to see a game with such a truly unique artstyle, fall victim to the conventions of the modern shooter.

Granted I won't be playing the boxart, I'll be playing the game, and so in the end it shouldn't matter. But it's just sad to see that developers have so little faith in humanity. That they feel the need to slap together a generic piece of boxart, that in no way expresses just how fresh the artstyle is. When the boxart for your game tries to be something it's not, it's just sort of pathetic, isn't it?

 

Regardless, I will be playing this game anyway, as the issue isn't big enough to spoil the experience the game delivers. Here's hoping it will turn out to be a good game! :)

PostNothing
PostNothing

I liked the the announcement cover or whatever it's called, the one with just the title. I voted for #4 anyway.  

parrot_of_adun
parrot_of_adun

Why in the world does anyone care THAT much about the cover art? This is a bizarre thing for "fans" to get pissed off about...

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

And after all the problems with Infinite's dev. And esp. The multiple long delays, you'd think Levine would sure as hell do everything he could to first please the people who have been waiting so long and riding out the messy dev. Cycle, versus people who have no clue what Bioshock even is!

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

So to me, that's the other big issue here - since they are trying to pull in such an unlikely crowd to support their game, it smacks of them not having faith in their fans and more crucially of the end product potentially being sub par.

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

To those who think the main issue here is whether or not the box art is cool, I think you're not seeing the bigger concern. To me, it's Levine and team's attitude towards their established fans. I take his remarks to mean that to a large degree, they basically take us for granted (how many here have already said they would buy Infinite regardless of the cover!) How dare you say that the cover art isn't for your fans - we who have been the biggest reason you are even financially able to make Infinite in the first place. Moreover, to then mull the opinions of the common frat boy and find out most hadn't even heard of your game, only to assume they will want to buy it more if you machosize the cover is just ludicrous. If they hadn't even heard of your franchise by now in the first place, I highly doubt anything you alter or change will make them actually go out and buy the game, let alone become a new fan!

electronic_eye
electronic_eye

At this point, I think Levine is starting to or has already lost his mind.

weaslerz
weaslerz

what's wrong with the original?

GORDONA3RIP
GORDONA3RIP

i like how columbia or anything that makes this game unique is not featured on the cover but a giant burning american flag is instead cause you know flag burning really sells games. 

shadow580
shadow580

I like the box art. I also like boxes that have 3D effects on them, such as the WOW boxes. I still have my box of my Deus Ex copy which you can open up and look at tons of pictures. After games started being packaged in small boxes, there was hardly any space for pictures to know what the game was about. Now I download most of my games but every so often I go to the store to get a physical copy to save some bandwidth and to keep the box art.

kratospete
kratospete

personally i like the box art altough it seems like its ty burrell holding a shotgun

Hurvl
Hurvl

I wouldn't be surprised if there was a magazine called Salad Dressing Weekly. There are magazines about all kinds of stuff.

EvilSelf
EvilSelf

Salad dressing? Wow, that was a good one Ken! Classic!

LandauTST
LandauTST

People who are complaining about the negative reception - get your heads out of your butts. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, and it's not always going to be yours. No one's making a huge deal about it, but yes, there are people who care and there are valid reasons to not liking it. Some of us grew up in a day where box art was very artistic, inspiring and original. This type of box art is just lazy and doesn't grab most people's attention, whether they know about the game or not.

 

I read their "reasoning" in the article, yet I find it extremely hard to believe they talked to a bunch of supposed gamers yet NONE of them knew what Bioshock was. Unless the stereotype that frat gamers only know of Halo, CoD and sports games. In which they need to stop complaining when it's brought up, because there's two possible scenarios - it is, in fact, 100% true, or Ken Levine is full of crap.

 

Do a Google search about the newest movie poster trend. A hero, weapon in hand, cloudy background, flying debris, and sparks. Now, the "cloudy" background is going to be given either way with this game, but it follows the entire formula of recent lazyness when making a poster/cover.

 

And in the end, is it a huge deal? Not at all. But to say they're not just being lazy about it is a lie. And to say everyone should not care because you don't is stupid. I'm also not saying everyone -should- care, just don't be ignorant about the subject.

ZeroX91
ZeroX91

I'm not seeing it.... just looks like a generic box cover to me, someone enlighten me as to why it's so bad.

tiki_tidalwave
tiki_tidalwave

So, how are the people at Salad Dressing Weekly going to market a new salad dressing to make Ken Levine switch to this new brand?

DomZeal
DomZeal

I showed this cover art and Crysis 3's to my dad last week and ask him which one he's more interested in. He prefers Infinite but he thinks the game is a shooter about circus...

Apastron
Apastron

I've found many people that read IGN to be somewhat uninformed too...

tgwolf
tgwolf

...Save the speech, a burning American flag, a woman who could be considered dressed only because she has clothes on ONE PART of her body and an M-rating...there's nothing that we need to know more than that.

supermoogle
supermoogle

It's box art, no one really cares.  The dissent found online will always be there so there's really no need to placate it.

Sp3ncerK
Sp3ncerK

do they really had to make the girl's tits so big and obvious ?? it just doesn't fit her personality and is a bit cheap move by devs to make her stand out in other female characters.

bloody-hell
bloody-hell

If this game actually ends up not sucking, I'll get it on Steam - No box art cover there, no problem for me.

If it does bother people which buy a boxed copy in a shop - print out another cover (like the cleavage shot of Elisabeth) and use that as cover instead.

steelmouth
steelmouth

i'v seen better

 

the cover art is not the kind that inspire one to buy the game when they dont know what the game is about

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

I always thought it was weird to place the main character of a first person shooter on the cover (maybe except for duke nukem), because you don't actually see his face that much in the game. It's somehow okay, because you place a face on the character you place, yet still....

Anyway, no real damage done. The cover, even if generic, is nice looking and will sit nicely on my shelf.

DarthLod
DarthLod

It's a game cover. Of all the things for people to rant about....really.

SaudiFury
SaudiFury

yeah i'll be print and use the alternate art cover. 

 

i'm for sure picking it up, but that little nit picky side of me really doesn't like the cover. to me it is an incredibly generic cover that doesn't come close to capturing what Bioshock Infinite is all about. 

 

 

Urufudo
Urufudo

I fail to see what's wrong with the cover here... Looks interesting to me, I'd pick it up in a store and flip it over to see what it's about, had I never heard of BioShock before. That's their goal, right? So no problem from me. :P Especially if they're offering alternate covers... though I'd prefer if their alternate cover was on the backside of this cover instead of having to print it out myself.

HyabusaRyu
HyabusaRyu

but who doesn't like doctor who as his box art ??

Gr3gSolidus
Gr3gSolidus

Will dudebros really buy your game if you make the cover all manly?

se007
se007

Well, this cover looks kind of cheesy indeed. I would've prefered something more elegant.

NeonNinja
NeonNinja

It's just a freaking cover.  People are freaking out over game covers now. 

GalvatronType_R
GalvatronType_R

No problem at all with the cover.  In Ken and Irrational we trust.

NTM23
NTM23

From what I've been hearing, the game is just as, or nearly as fantastic as the original, and although the intro gives you a little more detail into where you're heading, and what you're supposed to be doing, it's still as amazing to experience as it was when that plane crashed into the Atlantic ocean making you swim to a lighthouse to go to Rapture. I hear it's very much a game that rewards you if you just go off the beaten path, which sounds very appealing to me.

 

Ken Levine and the team at Irrational seem to know exactly what fans like, and the ones that are informed, like the ones who comment here and read here or other gaming sites, should be excited for this. It's understandable what they're trying to do with the box art, and I believe when Ken says what his intentions are when it comes to the box art, it's sincere and he's not just saying it to make sure he has our attention still.

GH05T-666
GH05T-666

This wont be as good as the first Bioshock

rhymesmatter
rhymesmatter

 @unwell-7 i find ur assumptions stRange. I mean i DO like seeing the occasional Kick ass dude posing in the front cover (e.g PC version of FFVII at that time or Ninja Gaiden Box arts and so on) but i don't get turned off by Female posing on the Box art. In Fact i loved the fact that Lightning was on both covers of FFXIII and FFXIII although both games were mediocre for completely different reasons. Furthermore because i am a healthy 25 year old dude (well as healthy as a guy that plays games can be :P) i think that Female chars in games are a win win. I LOVE DoA series ... :P Both for the awesome fighting system (The Strike-Counter-Holds triangle is amazing in my opinion) and for the sweet babes as a complete eyecandy :) If you ask me what i prefer, playing with the most? i would say a kick ass guy spreading carnage in his wake! But if you would ask me what do u like to see in a box art. I would say the occasional hot babe posing along the protagonist cause that would give me the idea that my protagonist is gonna get the affection of this girl, in the end, and that gives me some kind of satisfaction. Like i Kicked some ass and ... well...got some ass :P Does that make sense? i dunno but that's how i see it.So ur occasional good looking female on the game's front cover along with ur protagonist or maybe a male shrouding his face (you know in case u are playing an RPG that you create your own char completely) is something that draws my attention completely :)

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

 @LandauTST a lot of gamers play only FIFA, Starcraft and CoD/Battlefield. These gamers don't give a flying fuck about all the emotional experiences and artistic beauty. They like fucking explosions and badasses on the cover. The cover is aimed to sell the game to that public.

Hurvl
Hurvl

 @tiki_tidalwave By dressing up the new salad dressing in way that entices Ken, who's not a reader.

scraping101
scraping101

 @DomZeal exactly! I think it makes sense for them to try to hit other demographics, I just don't think their marketing money bought them a picture that is going to convince new customers to get excited about it

xsonicchaos
xsonicchaos

 @DarthLod Some of us are collectors. It's not really ranting, it's called opinion. No one raged about it.

batman_is_gaey
batman_is_gaey

 @SaudiFury I don't know about you but all of the boxed games I buy go on my shelf and into my cd case, with the box art hardly ever seen again. I would feel incredibly stupid spending even 2 minutes printing an alternate cover placing it over the original one and then shoving it back into my shelf for all the spiders and insects in my room to marvel at it.

NTM23
NTM23

 @GH05T-666 It's hard to imagine since the first was so amazing, though some think the game play wasn't all that terrific, me not being one of them. I wouldn't say it won't be as good though.

ZeroX91
ZeroX91

 @Morphine_OD  @LandauTST You make it sound like Bioshock/2 had amazing box art, they didn't they both consist of a big daddy and little sister standing in front of a generic backdrop. If it was some amazing work of art (like the games) I could see your point, but it's not. Just seems overly nitpicky to me. 

H0rizon
H0rizon

 @NTM23  @GH05T-666 Gotta agree with Ghost. That first experience is much like everything else. It's hard to obtain a feeling like that again, but this is why you keep your mind open.

Hurvl
Hurvl

 @ZeroX91 You're right, this has been the standard with box arts for a very long while, it shouldn't surprise people, although it's no surprise that people still whine about it. Non-gamer people (e.g. parents) in retail shops might look at it and think that their kids might like that as well as (often quite young) newcomers to the franchise who looks at it and thinks "Wow, cool!".

 

It's actually a bit funny, because the hardcore gamers and fans think that everything the company does should be with them in mind, but the company doesn't care about them that much since they're already aware of their product. Why spend resources on the already hooked people when you can persuade the less enthusiastic people to give it a try. The fans get angry of this treatment sometimes and that's not good for business either, but it's still easier to get them aware of the company's product than a non-gamer/newcomer, so the company's nonchalant behavior makes perfect sense and is often for the best. Without the non-gamers/newcomers, it wouldn't be half as easy to sustain game production.

NTM23
NTM23

 @H0rizon  @GH05T-666 Yeah, but Bioshock Infinite isn't Bioshock. You could argue that's it's similar, but we don't yet know if that's entirely true. You could have expectations right now, but when you play it, it could be totally different.