Levine explains how Oreo packaging is like box art

BioShock Infinite creative director Ken Levine says the goal of both is to appeal to consumers and lead to a sale.

Packaging for a snack like Oreo cookies and video game box art are not as different as they may seem, according to BioShock Infinite creative director Ken Levine. The industry veteran explained to GameSpot this week that snack packaging and box art have a shared goal: to convince consumers to make a purchase.

"What is the package of an Oreo cookie? It is a representation of something that is trying to catch your eye and appeal to you," Levine said. "Does it taste like an Oreo cookie? No. Does it feel like an Oreo cookie? Can you eat it? No. Does it have any nutritional value? No."

The BioShock Infinite box art has been a point of controversy for Irrational Games since its unveiling. It features a gun-toting Booker DeWitt, the game's male hero on the front, with Elizabeth placed on the back. Levine previously explained that the box art was designed for the uninformed. This group may not keep up to date with the happenings of the business but is in no way any less important, Levine argued. In fact, he said it is the opposite; these gamers are keeping the business alive.

"I understand why people are bothered by this, because for some reason BioShock in particular is something they put this particular value on," Levine explained. "But I have a responsibility to the company I work for, to the people I employ, to give them the best shot of having their work recognized and rewarded. And you know what, if I'm going to get criticized because I chose a [controversial] box cover, those people don't have the same responsibilities that I do."

"I have a responsibility to the company I work for, to the people I employ, to give them the best shot of having their work recognized and rewarded."

Levine explained that the process of choosing box art for BioShock Infinite came down to selecting imagery that would draw consumers to it and hopefully lead to a sale. He said Irrational created numerous concepts and showed them to thousands of people to gauge their reactions.

"This is not something to take lightly; the goal is when you walk by it on the shelf, is that person going to go and pick up the box?," Levine said. "And you can intellectualize that process a great deal and say 'What if this, what if that?' But when you actually put it in front of people, what is their reaction?"

Levine said when gamers finally do play BioShock Infinite, they will understand that the box art only scratches the surface of what the game truly is trying to say. "One's fish and one's fowl," he said.

"I pick up the front, yeah, Elizabeth's not on the front, but you flip it over, she's on the back. Sorry [waves hands sarcastically]. If that's what it takes to make the game successful and to continue to employ people, and to have more of these games, I'll take that hit happily."

BioShock Infinite launches March 26 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. Levine does not know what he's making next.

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Eddie Makuch

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

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154 comments
rkelll48
rkelll48

why do people care so much who or what is on the cover ??

NineteenthCross
NineteenthCross

All things considered.. I hope he knows that Oreo copied everything from their brand from Hydrox.

cbxero
cbxero

I don't know exactly what the controversy is here, but this guy is bang on. It's marketing, and if research shows that a particular style of cover art leads to increased sales, that's what you put on the cover. It's not rocket science, it's good business.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

I still can't believe people are pissed off about the cover. I wish Elizabeth would have been included, but overall, it looks great.

00LiteYear
00LiteYear

Was his imagery supposed to remind us of nathan drake? That's what I'm seeing.

Lord_Vader
Lord_Vader

Who cares it's just a fucking box. The actual game is what matters. I don't even get to see the box art up close and personal anyway since I buy most of my games digitally.

yamilvirginio
yamilvirginio

People are taking all of this box art crap way to seriously its just a box what matters is what is inside. They could have put a guy taking a shit for all i care  

petez34
petez34

meh. seriously a dumb article. I don't spend any appreciable time staring at box art, I never have. Have I ever scanned the game store shelf looking for games that (for some reason) catch my eye? LOL, no! Do people choose to buy games based on the look of the cover? I know when I buy a new novel I don't stare at the spines on the shelf, expecting the buy something flashy. How does the saying go?...

ffs. Back in the days of LP's did ANYONE ever buy an album based on the beautiful art. NO. To look at prospective buyers with such simplicity i find insulting. Artist my ass! Artists don't conduct surveys and focus groups to gauge what the audience find most visually appealing. So much attention being wasted on this stuff. I laugh. 

ghostXzero
ghostXzero

so based on the article, is the fan-favored cover supposed to be the one on the back with elizabeth?

l777l
l777l

It's important to explain that to feminists.

Scarab83
Scarab83

I understand what he's saying, and I think he makes a good point, but the fact that the true fans have to suffer through generic box art so the masses will play it is still kind of sad.

unreal101
unreal101

Ken Levine presents: The Bro Trap!

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

I think they made a bad choice. If I didn't know what Bioshock was, I would assume it was just another generic shooter based on the cover.

Carpetfluff
Carpetfluff

I get it. Infinite is being sold as a shooter; every advert and trailer started off with that 'from the developer of the number 1 FPS shooter' tagline. I've never really thought of Bioshock as a shooter, at least not in same sense as a COD or something similar, because there's a lot more to the games, but I completely understand it from a marketing point of view; people who already know what it is don't need the adverts to be convinced; the marketing isn't aimed at us.

alext_b
alext_b

I personally like the cover. I don't need the cover to represent the experience of BioShock, I have the game for that. I want something that looks cool, which interests me and something worth staring at. That makes the actual cover better than the alternate covers for me.

AlexFili
AlexFili

Boxart runs purely on "Rule of Cool", just look at Call of Duty, Sonic and Mario boxes. Nuff said

vihazur
vihazur

He didn't say that the box art should automatically lead to a sale.  He said something more like how it should be eye-catching, and pique your curiosity.  At least get you to pick it up, read the back, etc.

I don't quite understand why this is the best box art to achieve that, but I totally agree with his sentiments on this.  I don't get what the fuss is all about, here. 

macca366
macca366

What it comes down to is they did focus groups or ran a survey with a bunch of different covers, and found that the one chosen drew most people to pick up the box. The game cost 200 million to make. There's a responsibility to make all that money back just to break even (3,333,333 copies at $60), let alone secure a profit so that publishers can see that games like Bioshock Infinite can be successful, and continue to allow guys like Levine to develop more of them. The box art isn't about the content, its about sales - which isn't always shallow, sometimes its practical.

Also, Irrational went as far as to present about 5 different alternate covers, and allow a public vote on their website to determine the fan favourite. The highest voted will be printed on the underside of the cover, so you can flip it around and use the alternate cover instead. Its the one on the left.

http://www.destructoid.com//ul/241174-bio1.jpg

advocacy
advocacy

You had me at "Oreos," Ken Levine.

Tsuchikage
Tsuchikage

I'd argue that a cover that is different from the usual 'guy with a gun' boxart that we see so often would attract consumers to the game.  That being said, I don't really care what the packaging looks like; I'm still going to buy BioShock Infinite regardless.

kratospete
kratospete

I don`t care about the cover although that may be somehting really ugly to look at everytime you`re about to play the game since you have to remove the disc off the box like Arkham City GOTY,  i love the Bioshock Infinite cover  Booker looks like Ty Burrell holding a shotgun lol

TheLoganLives
TheLoganLives

While his analogies might not be the most poignant (i.e., this and the other box art comparison to salad dressing labels) you have to understand that the average gamer (or consumer for that matter) does not actively educate themselves on electronic media as those of you on this site do. Although it isn't pretty, the goal of the game's cover is to get "average" consumers to purchase it. As much as we hate to admit it, we are in the minority. Average consumers are what will make this game commercially successful--which honestly is what is most important for the further development of the Bioshock franchise and the existence of Irrational Games. Besides, there's always that sweet alternative art fans voted on located on the reverse side of the cover :D

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

this is the most retarded sounding article name that ive seen in years from a game site.

Fitzmx6
Fitzmx6

@yamilvirginio I actually laughed out loud at this. I think its because I have the sense of humor of a 5 year old and I actually pictured it.

Bayonetta2013
Bayonetta2013

@petez34 Sometimes, I look at the box art and if it looks interesting, I'll take a look at the back of the game. It's not impossible to buy a game based off of what you see. I'm sure a lot of people do.

Hurvl
Hurvl

@The-Neon-Seal I personally think it's interesting to have him comment on this while we also get to read what David Cage thinks. They're two different people who look at box art differently and it's interesting to learn about that disparity and what it means. It makes me reflect on what I, myself, think about this. My view is that box art should be appealing for people who aren't as informed as we are, but at the same time not misleading. I agree with both Levine and Cage to a degree.

cuddlyfuzzle
cuddlyfuzzle

@Scarab83 since games are expensive as hell now it makes sense that they try to  reach more people. im more concerned about the dumbed down gameplay everyone have to suffer through generally in games, not a picture on the box. 

Hurvl
Hurvl

@Scarab83 It could be worse, it's only the box art, far greater compromises have been made (and are still made) to appeal to the masses. The box art is generic, but at least the colors are nice :).

_Silent_Jay_
_Silent_Jay_

@thereal-15-cent That's kind of the point.  It's designed to appeal to the person who buys generic shooters, which is like 60%% of the market.  The hardcore gamers already know the BioShock brand and its pedigree, so what's on the cover means squat to them, as they were going to buy it regardless.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

@vihazur I agree on this, too. I can get what he's saying, but to be frank I personally don't find the cover very 'eye-catching' it seems rather generic and samey to me (as any other typical white dude w/ a gun lookin' 'rugged' on the cover). 

I'd also be interested to know, too, the hell these 'people' are that these gaming companies use to 'test' things like concept boxart cover w/. I've heard this same argument other publishers/devs make when their covers are criticized  Frankly, I think they need to diversify the individuals they use then, if that's the case....b/c I can't see how these people tend to pick the same sort of boxart designs over and over again and find that 'eye-catching'. Especially when you get at shooter games. 

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

@HipHopBeats I totally agree w/ this. UK and Japanese covers are simply awesome and so much more eye-catching in my opinion to look at. While I understand his point, you'd think surely these devs/publisher would start to take an overall look at all these shooter games that have released in the US and then look at every SINGLE cover and realize the 'hey look at me I'm a shooter' box are isn't so damn unique and 'eye-catching' when every freakin' body else in the same genre is using the SAME cover approach.....<_<

Frankly, I don't really find nothing interesting about the cover. For a game that comes off w/ such a unique art style--it's kinda weak that it seems that's the best they could of done w/ the cover. Like you mentioned it looks kinda like it's biting off of UC3 and yet it doesn't even look half as cool; but that's just me, lol. 

jaspermur
jaspermur

@macca366 I like the fan favorite better than the current one. Just the color scheme stands out vs the offical one. Looks like I going pass this week and wait for a price drop.

dominoodle
dominoodle

@macca366 Ken Lavine also said something about being able to go to the site and print off alternate cover art if you want.

face_ripper
face_ripper

@snova9308 @thereal-15-cent He wasn't judging. Hes just trying to state that the box art is nothing special compared to other shooters. A man holding a gun while looking away from the 'camera' Its been done many times before.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

@mrboone01 @KimCheeWarriorX @PumpkinBoogie i admit that changing my profile pic here on gamespot has been long overdue because i got my long hair cut off years ago but what do you expect? im a korean and at the time i had long hair (kind of looked like a samurai to tell you the truth, heh) there was no other way to build my avatar when the feature was first introduced in that version of the dashboard. thanks for making that point though, it brought to my attention that my profile pic needs a long overdue replacement, heh.

KimCheeWarriorX
KimCheeWarriorX

@PumpkinBoogie @KimCheeWarriorX its all good, i just had to make that post to let people know whats going on, ya know? its not the first time ive been called a chick because of the whole "kim" thing. im half korean and kim is a common korean name among korean men and women alike not to mention that the food kimchee is a common korean delicacy as common as sushi to japanese.

PumpkinBoogie
PumpkinBoogie

@KimCheeWarriorX @PumpkinBoogie My fault, lol, I was typing quick, though you might have been female (looking at your user pic quickly, too). 

If you're not, sorry.....I change the joke end to 'bro', lol.