Naughty Dog: games don't need males on cover to sell

The Last of Us dev says studio was asked to put Ellie on the back cover; claims it is a fallacy that putting a female on cover will lead to lesser sales.

The cover art for Naughty Dog's PlayStation 3 action game The Last of Us features female protagonist Ellie alongside male character Joel, but not all wanted it this way. Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann and Ellie voice actress Ashley Johnson spoke out on the issue in a new VG247 interview.

"I feel like they don’t put women on the covers because they’re afraid that it won’t sell," Johnson said. "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’s won’t sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front."

Druckmann concurred with Johnson's assessment, claiming it is a fallacy that games with females on their covers will sell fewer copies than those with a male front and center. He also revealed that Naughty Dog was asked to take Ellie entirely off the front of the box art for The Last of Us.

"I believe there’s a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less," Druckmann 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."

Box art has been a much-discussed issue of late. Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine recently responded to criticisms about the BioShock Infinite cover art, saying that it was designed for the uninformed, not fans of the series.

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

0 comments
z706
z706

Meanwhile in Japan...girls on cover? SOLD.

Ovirew
Ovirew

I think the cover looks fine the way it is above.  Why can't the guy and the girl be on the cover together?

It's too bad that we live in a society where a cover that sells is more important than an artistic cover.

gjozefi
gjozefi

Is that Ellen Page doing the char and voice over?

GingerSideburns
GingerSideburns

If it's that big a deal for Sony then they should just go the Mass Effect 3 way and have reversible covers, one with Joel and one with Ellie, then the store can flip the covers and have half with Joel on and the other half with Ellie. But, to be honest, I'm going to buy a game (including this one) based on if it's good, not the sex of the character on the cover.

calabreseboy
calabreseboy

Garbage. What an insulting POS garbage thing to say.

I buy a game if it's good. Most gamers buy a game if it's good. The majority, "mainstream" audience want excitement, enjoyment, strong characters, strong story, great gameplay. If you make a great game with a woman on the cover, it will sell.

 

Don't just take the moral high ground and make out like this is an issue without yourself at least contributing to fix it. 

Dessicator
Dessicator

Hey here's an idea to balance out the loss of sales from putting a girl (ewww gross!) on the cover; stop making your games exclusive to one console, the rest of us might like to play them too.

Nodashi
Nodashi

The cover issue is, imho, a non-issue. It will not affect sales - in fact, using Mass Effect as example, I think it would sell BETTER without Shepard in the cover - specially 2 and 3, since "your" Shepard will probably not look like that guy.With Miranda and Zero on the cover it would be much better.Well, actually Garrus would be a nice choice too, etc... but you get my point. 

UncookedMoa
UncookedMoa

I just play whenever a game looks good to me. Gender is no problem to me.

WoZe
WoZe

Did Laura Parker hack eddie makuch's account?

grbolivar
grbolivar

Are you listening BIOSHOCK INFINITE?????

berserker66666
berserker66666

WTF...did any of Lara Croft's box cover were in the back? Masterchief's the protagonist of Halo and no one even think about putting him on the back. It doesn't matter he/she is a male/female. If he/she is a protagonist, put em to front cover.

chemergency7712
chemergency7712

You tell 'em, Naughty Dog!! I'm tired of cliche box art.

golden_ashen
golden_ashen

I'd rather have more females tbh, I thought it was purely an American thing to have homoerotic muscle bound men showing off their pecks to make up for other things they may or may not have stuck on the front of boxes.

csward
csward

A lot of men nowadays play as female characters by choice in games anyway. Not really news here.

crashmer
crashmer

Depends on how much cover the woman/girl has.

Jaxith
Jaxith

...That is simultaneously one of the stupidest and most horrible things I've ever heard...  I haven't really been following the game myself, but it's a game about a man and his daughter trying to survive the post-apocalypse right?  The girl's kinda an important part of that equation, and removing her would just make the whole concept kinda boring and washed out.  In other words, she's an important part of the game...  What kind of idiot wouldn't want her on the cover just because of her gender?

 

Anyway, respect to everyone at Naughty Dog for calling out this stupidity.

juliangui
juliangui

I am guilty of buying games which give even the slightest hint that there might be boobs in there. Not bare boob...just boob in general.... I hate myself....-_-

Devbinks
Devbinks

I wasn't aware that it was generally frowned upon to have a female somewhere on a game cover. I guess if Tomb Raider hadn't had Lara Croft on the cover, the game might have actually done well and possibly spawned sequels, becoming a well-respected series. Oh, wait...

TTDog
TTDog

So why has it taken until the 4th game for them to say this?

rasputin177
rasputin177

I would also like to say the cover could like Beatles "White Album" and I would still buy this game on day one.

rasputin177
rasputin177

It seems everyday now I become more and more ashamed to be a gamer. The sterotype that we are petty, immature losers unable to relate to women or examine serious social issues is basically true if you judge by the comments on this website.

MajorasMask00
MajorasMask00

Oh look, another pointless article about sexism.

bmart970
bmart970

It's the content, not the cover, for me.

radcrab123
radcrab123

What the heck naughty dog WHAT THE HECK.... THE GAMERS DONT CARE FOR DUMB COVER ART WHO CARES IF YOU PUT A GIRL ON!

Dr_Corndog
Dr_Corndog

Huh. I wouldn't buy it either way.

Shengy89
Shengy89

Correct me if I'm wrong..... Tomb Raider?!

theconniption
theconniption

To the folks that dissing the mixing of video games and social issues

 

...you think people are blowing up little issues in what should just be an entertainment medium--a place to escape into fantasy from the real world.  You think it's all about being ridiculously PC.  I can agree that sometimes it gets a little heavy handed...

 

...however...

 

Films, books, comic books, art etc.--these mediums are all more or less made up of fictional works (ie. "...NOT REAL") yet they all deeply affect our worldview; they have for centuries.  The way in which love, race, cigarettes, men, heroism, sex, violence, femininity, beauty, God, homosexuality, etc. are all portrayed/represented have a powerful impact on the way WE, in turn, see the world and go about interacting with it.  

 

Can you really not imagine video games, which have bombarded us with consistent stereotypes and images since we were kids, having a similarly profound effect on our psyche? Can you really not expect 14-year-old-boys to be affected by constantly blowing up turban-clad Arabs, or seeing that every female character has massive tits, or having the same ripped alpha-male on every video-game cover? I know we're all relatively smart and that we're not swayed by every little thing we see, but we have to realize that on some level we are affected by these representations.  Others may be more so.

 

Video games are past Pong.  They are beginning to represent the real world--with more and more graphical realism, in fact--so I think we must react accordingly, by expecting the same mature, nuanced representations from our video games (when applicable, of course) that we do from our cinema and written fiction.

 

bmart970
bmart970

I think that cover art looks pretty cool.

theKSMM
theKSMM

In the '80s, action heroes were big muscular guys in their 20s who were basically stronger and faster than anybody that dared opposed them.  At some point in the movie / game / music video, there was probably going to be an excuse for them to be topless for a significant portion of time.  Think Stallone, Shwarzenegger, or Nukem.

 

Today's action hero tends to be a fit -- but not hulking -- middle-aged man.  He often looks grizzled and worn, but he's a veteran that has seen enough combat to know how to win.  He's a capable fighter, but he's going to win most of his battles by being smarter and more aware than his foes.  Think Sutherland, Craig, or (maybe) Drake.

 

Either way, it's rare to see a female in a "realistic," gritty action role.  Fantasy games or sci-fi, maybe, but never really anything grounded.  I'll even go further to say that most of the time, our protagonist is a white guy.  I'd love to see more games that featured females without DD-cup breasts, or a Japanese guy who isn't a ninja, or a black guy who isn't a boxer, but just regular guys and gals who overcome some tremendous odds.  I might connect with those characters a bit more than the ones I'm presented with now.

 

With all that said, I'm really glad that Ellie will be front-and-center on the box.  I can just imagine that she'll lend the story some emotional gravitas and become a character that we legitimately care about by the end of the game.

xophaser
xophaser

I would care less of the cover.  The only game cover i remembered of the top of my head is Dragon Age, it has a red dragon.   Tomb raider Laura croft too.  RE6 has a number 6, whoopie.

NettoSaito
NettoSaito

Pretty sure Lightning sold Final Fantasy 13 lol

syfyfighter
syfyfighter

Lol this is so stupid I bought final fantasy XIII and never gave a shit that lightning was on the cover. Id almost think the opposite when I see a woman on the cover...

JulyAeon
JulyAeon

It is not the cover hat sells me a game, it's the demos and story line and most important, a PROPER game.  where is this moronic marketing coming from, it's so frustrating !!!

stziggy
stziggy

In 2012 I really thought we had moved past this.

Killer6b9
Killer6b9

I plan on buying this game no matter what is on the cover.......personally I don't care. I have done my research and found out this game should be a AAA title and will be really surprised if it is not.....

BlackLense
BlackLense

LOL, then make dual cover that you can swap.

theconniption
theconniption

To all the folks suggesting that we forego the sexism debate:

 

This is a video game website...why not discuss issues relevant to video games? ...especially if they affect someone who's a part of our community (even if they aren't YOUR specific demographic).

 

As for the issue itself, imagine if a distributor were suggesting that a company replace a black guy with a white guy on their box art because they thought that white heroes sell better than non-whites--despite the fact that the black character may be crucial to the game itself.  

 

Should we then just "stop thinking about RACISM and simply consume whatever the industry feeds us"  or should we discuss these issues openly and see if we can't affect some change?  Come on peoples...there's a big world out there to interact with.

Syphen_bast
Syphen_bast

@gjozefi  lol i thought the exact same thing when i saw the trailer, then i went to check it out...and i was wrong :) but yes the character itself has some resemblance to Ellen Page...imo ofc :)

Leboyo56
Leboyo56

@gjozefi Did you not read the article? It states Ashley Johnson is the voice actor for Ellie.

CarsAndGuitarsx
CarsAndGuitarsx

@DessicatorHey here's an idea to balance out the loss of sales from putting a man (ewww gross!) on the cover; go buy a PS3 so you can play this game. Because 360 fanboys like yourself dont deserve to play this awesome game.

rasputin177
rasputin177

 @theconniption

 This is an amazing comment and the fact only two people have "liked" it sad and telling. Most thoughtful and progressive thinking people enjoy books, film and movies and assume video games are for kids. Many of the comments on this site help prove the sterotype. Those of us who realize vieo games can be art and don't just play because we can't connect with women or the real world need to speak up.

Retolpo
Retolpo

 @theKSMM a agree with you, because well there is The Walking Dead for example the main guy is a black guy without any special ability, and this innocent 8 year old girl. and that game is awesome and btw my 2012 favorite, so I really think that this game can sell a lot with even only Ellie in the front .

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

 @theconniption Because this is a VIDEO GAME SITE. Most people come here to play video games and not get sucked into politically correct bullshit. This is taking a medium and trying to politicize it and that is wrong.

 

If you want to debate about sexism, racism, et al. then there are plenty of outlets online and in the real-world to get you off.

 

I don't care when it comes to games because THEY'RE NOT REAL and they shouldn't be made out to be anything more than an entertainment device.

Dessicator
Dessicator

@CarsAndGuitarsx Getting all pissy and upset because I challenged something your beloved developer said TOTALLY takes away your right to call anyone a fanboy. And I don't own an Xbox. That's a false presumption, butthurt ego, and petty backlash. Three strikes, you're out, loser.

theconniption
theconniption

 @Kravyn81  @theconniption I understand where you're coming from Kravyn...you think people are blowing up little issues in what should just be an entertainment medium--a place to escape into fantasy from the real world.  You think it's all about being ridiculously PC.  I can agree that sometimes it gets a little heavy handed...

 

...however...

 

Films, books, comic books, art etc.--these mediums are all more or less made up of fictional works (ie. "...NOT REAL") yet they all deeply affect our worldview; they have for centuries.  The way in which love, race, cigarettes, men, heroism, sex, violence, femininity, beauty, God, homosexuality, etc. are all portrayed/represented have a powerful impact on the way WE, in turn, see the world and go about interacting with it.  

 

Can you really not imagine video games, which have bombarded us with consistent stereotypes and images since we were kids, having a similarly profound affect on our psyche? Can you really not expect 14-year-old-boys to be affected by constantly blowing up turban-clad Arabs, or seeing that every female character has massive tits, or having the same ripped alpha-male on every video-game cover? I know you're smart and that you're not swayed by every little thing you see, but you have to realize that on some level you are affected by these representations.  Others may be more so.

 

Video games are past Pong.  They are beginning to represent the real world--with more and more graphical realism, in fact--so I think we must react accordingly, by expecting the same mature, nuanced representations from our video games (when applicable, of course) that we do from our cinema and written fiction.

Isaac_Redfield
Isaac_Redfield

 @Kravyn81  @theconniption Neither are the Japanese rape fantasy video games.  Although I doubt most people would approve of them here, even though they are "just fantasy".  As for not discussing sexism on a video game site?  Gamespot already has done an article about it, so I guess you're a bit late.