Britt5091 Origins: Box art: The deal maker (or breaker)?

Welcome to Britt5091: Origins, where I dig up old blog posts I used to write for IGN’s community under the username Britt5091. Some posts may make you giggle, some may make your eyes bleed, and some may make you stroke your beard in a pensive manner. All you need to know is that these posts, no matter how terrible some of them may be, ultimately lead to everything I do now.

Box art: The deal maker (or breaker)?

September 21, 2009

I recently read the article written by Cam Shea, IGN AU titled GC Asia 2009: Sony- Japanese Developers Need to Aim Global To Survive

In brief, the article summarizes a speech given by Yasuhide Kobayashi, Senior Vice President of JAPAN Studio, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios while at GC Asia 2009. In his speech, Kobayashi explained the need for Japanese developers to appeal to the hardcore US and European markets by designing “mature, strong” character models, as opposed to the cutesy anime-style that is popular in Japan, as well as tweaking game titles such as “The Last Guardian” as (apparently) this title is more enticing than something along the lines of “Ico”.

Statistically speaking, in the era of the PSone Japan averaged 1/3 of the videogame market. However over the years that number has dropped down to around 1/5. Because of this, Kobayashi went as far as saying that without success overseas, the studio may face bankruptcy. Therefore, the need to appeal overseas is substantial.

Anyway, I’m not going to rewrite the article, as that would be pointless and if you wanted you could just check it out yourself (and you should). However Kobayashi touched on a particular subject that really piqued my interest.

Kobayashi briefly mentioned the impact box art has towards the sale of a game. For example, he believes Ico would have sold more than the 217,000 copies it did in the US if the box art was different, as he and designers believe the cover art didn’t capture what the game was all about.

The reason this game sold poorly in the US?

Upon reading Kobayashi’s opinion regarding Ico, I started wondering why I never picked this title up. It could be because I was 13, going through typical teenage angst, because I didn’t have the money, or maybe other priority titles were coming out at the time. Maybe the marketing sucked, I can’t remember. I had briefly heard of the game, I had seen it in action, and I was impressed. I just never picked it up. But it sure as hell wasn’t because of the box art.

But I dug a little deeper and began looking at both sides of the spectrum.

I typically begin following games before box art is conceived. By the time a title releases I generally have an idea if I will be making a purchase or not. You could put a picture of cat shit on the box for Uncharted 2 or Brutal Legend and I would buy it, knowing what I know.

On the flip side, while randomly browsing shelves a game I’ve never heard of will catch my attention thanks to the (you guessed it) box art. A mental note of the title and a quick look over the box later, I’ll take that info and do a lil’ research when I get home. But hey, you caught my attention; I looked into your game, hopefully liked what I saw, and may consider a rental or even a purchase.

Here’s a quote from Randy Pitchford CEO of Gearbox (developers of Borderlands):

“The motive is about the goals of a box cover —  you want to evoke something, get attention and have something honest to say about the promise of the game so that you’re confident whatever you’re doing up front, you can gratify your customer with what is inside.”

What do you guys think about the importance of box art?

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Update

June 16th, 2012

I don’t need to state my opinion, seeing as it was me who wrote what I wrote a few years ago and I still agree with myself (ain’t that convenient?) but the topic of box art and the release of box art and the conception of box art ALWAYS seem to make headlines.

“OSNAP! Halo 4’s boxart revealed!”

“GEARS OF WAR: JUDGMENT BOXART REVEALED!”

“THE LAST OF US BOXART REVEALED!”

“MY PENIS REVEALED!”

I visited my grandma today and she was showing off some of her recently acquired titles — titles I’d never even HEARD of. Most of them appeared to be JRPGs, but because I had never heard of these whacky-ass games it came down to the boxart to impress me. In typical JRPG fashion the boxart contained dainty-looking females and prepubescent males, and because I’m a JRPG fanatic the art turned my crank — if I had the time and/or money (mostly money!) I would have written the names of titles down so that I could take another looksee.

So, you see boxart, it wasn’t you…it was me. BUT YOU DID YOUR PART. I just want you to know that.

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  • Boots_33

    Box art is meant to hook people who aren’t in the know. That market is much, much larger than the enthusiasts. Think about a game like Resistance 3. It was a clever idea using the New York City skyline as the teeth on a Chimera skull… however, if you knew nothing about that game, you wouldn’t know what the bloody eff type of game it was and not bother to take a look.

    …and now, the franchise is dead.

    Were they smart, they would’ve had a human shooting at a Chimera, or even the standard “Yo dudes, I’m just gonna stand here looking badass with a gun in my hands” pose. At least that way people would know it was a shooter, as opposed to thinking “What is this even supposed to be? Fuck it, I’m getting Madden.”

    It might not mean a lot to us gung-ho gamers, but box art has its place… and it’s an important one.

    PS – This may be the most eloquent comment I post on your site. Savor this! 😉