Ken Levine Explains BioShock Infinite‘s Bland Box Art

Chris Kohler:

What’s up with BioShock Infinite‘s box art? Here’s the answer.

As part of its media ramp-up for the impending March 26 release of BioShock Infinite, Irrational Games released the official box art for the game on December 1. A great wail emerged from the Internet and there was much rending of garments over the cover, which didn’t seem to befit such an imaginative, ambitious, anticipated game. The majesty of the floating city of Columbia, the intrigue of Elizabeth and the Songbird, the game’s grappling with weighty topics of politics and racism had all seemingly been reduced down to that most generic of videogame tropes: angry dude with a gun.

Personally, I found this all to be a bit of a non-troversy and we said as much on the recent Game|Life podcast. Cover art is sometimes the only thing a consumer makes a buying decision based on, and it’s okay if they use the cover that they feel will put this game in the hands of millions of bros who just want to shoot things. Nobody said when the first BioShock came out that it was about Ayn Rand, they just said you got to set things on fire and throw bees out your hands.

When I got to sit down with Infinite‘s creative director Ken Levine on Thursday after playing the game and asked for his thoughts, I got an extensive, thoughtful answer that in a perfect world would put an end to all of the bellyaching.

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Jinkies2201d ago (Edited 2201d ago )

I like Ken but that is the most ridiculous excuse I have ever heard...theres no need to come up with excuses like this to cover your arse

"We expected it"

The number one line of this gen that nearly ever developer uses when they get into s***...FF13, Resident Evil 5/6, Dead Space 3, Dmc etc

“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.”

Sorry but if your a gamer and I actually mean a gamer who likes games for what they are and is actually interested in the industry, not someone who just buys a console to kill time on the new COD or whatever blockbuster game is out then your bound to hear about sites like IGN and I'm pretty sure a lot of people heard about Bioshock with how succesfull it was, sucessfull enough to get a sequel.

"Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us"

Nope...I don't think any of us forget a good game, you probably asked a bunch of mega douches who say there gamers but the only game they play on is COD. I still remember Half Life and that was years and years ago.

"“I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn’t read IGN… to pick up the box and say, okay, this looks kind of cool"

What is it with IGN....not every gamer thinks of IGN as the number one source of gaming, hell I think more people use sites like this where all sorts of gaming infomation passes through it.

So to sum it up, instead of being creative and sticking to what your company is about...creativity you decided to crack under the pressure to sell more copies of your game for more money with a generic cover art that dosent represent the game at all.

I know it's just box art but I really thought Irrational Games were differn't

WrAiTh Sp3cTr32201d ago

What he said makes sense. I guess the hardcore fans may have better luck with a different edition.

Jinkies2201d ago

May aswell slap a big sticker on the box saying "Fratboy Approved"

MidnytRain2201d ago (Edited 2201d ago )

I don't like the box art either, but what he said made perfect sense. The last two sentences summarize nicely.

"The money we’re spending on PR, the conversations with games journalists — that’s for the fans. For the people who aren’t informed, that’s who the box art is for.”

Box art is promotion, which isn't necessary for series fans. We can still print better ones if we want. There are MUCH worse ways to appeal to casuals than a generic box art; at least we still get a [email protected]$$ game.

guitarded772201d ago

I like Ken Levine too, but always seems coked up in every interview and/or public appearance.

Can't wait for Bioshock Infinite.

Kur02201d ago

Look I'm not a fan of the cover but that explanation makes perfect sense to me. Games are costly to make and hey if they want to make the cover appeal to a broader audience so the game sells more copies without affecting the actual gameplay then shut the hell up and enjoy the game when it comes out.

Jinkies2201d ago

"Shut the hell up"

Wow what a big man you wonder you only have one bubble

Immature troll

Certz2201d ago

The box art seems misleading. Buyers might see it as a something close to a COD shooter but find out its nothing close to it.

MidnytRain2200d ago

Well, they'll most likely flip to the back cover, which should clarify and explain.

+ Show (2) more repliesLast reply 2200d ago
VenalPsychopomp2201d ago (Edited 2201d ago )

There are so many problems with this article, mostly concerning the writer but also what Ken Levine actually says.

Firstly there is the part where the writer interjects "Personally, I found this all to be a bit of a non-troversy". This is a pointlessly dismissive statement. If it was an event unworthy of controversy, why are you addressing it? Why are you publishing an article attempting to justify what happened?

Then there's "Nobody said when the first BioShock came out that it was about Ayn Rand, they just said you got to set things on fire and throw bees out your hands." Sure, maybe if you only disinterestedly watched one or two trailers, but if you actually read even a little of what the developers were saying about the game's influences, it was pretty explicitly clear that objectivism was an obvious influence to the overall themes and major motif.

"I got an extensive, thoughtful answer that in a perfect world would put an end to all of the bellyaching" Bellyaching, huh? Most of the people that will deign to give this silly article a click through will probably agree (even if just a little bit) with the controversy, so why does this writer insist on insulting those who hold this opinion and try to invalidate it. What's the point of alienating the reader?

All in all, I really can't understand the juvenile mentality of the writer penning this article.

And then there's Ken, who just adds some confusing cherries on top of the thoroughly irritating dessert.

Ignoring the multiple references to IGN being some sort of undisputed gaming culture hivemind, it's pointless to pick out quotes from what he said, because what he is saying is very simple. He's saying that they focus tested the box art with people who play games but don't really follow the gaming world (e.g. fratbros), and apparently the box art we ended up with was the most effective one.

Which is fine, right? They need the game to be as successful as possible, so they to find a way to market and sell the game to everyone. Gamers who have paid attention to the game's development will ultimately end up buying the game even if it was in a plain white slip case. Gamers who don't know what Bioshock Infinite is may need a little eye-candy to persuade them to pick up the box and check it out. Like I said, that's totally fine.

However, when the vocal reaction from hardcore gamers is so negative, why not just change the box art to one of the other more visually interesting pieces of box art which also tested well with the casual gamers? The saying that all press is good press doesn't apply to this situation - it's not worth discouraging people, it's not worthy dampening people's excitement for the game. The casual outnumber the hardcore of course, but it's the hardcore who will end up evangelizing about your game, they will end up marketing it for you. So, yes, you need to appeal to the casual gamers, but you absolutely need to appease the hardcore.

Quit making redundant excuses, and just change the damn box art, jeez.

torchic2201d ago

agreed with lots of what you said but I wouldn't take everything he said so literally., like the many references to IGN. it was annoying how he seemingly held IGN in such high esteem as some sort of underground gaming culture for the hardcore, purist gamers but I just think that he was trying to make a point. that's it.

what's fascinating is that Ken Levine knew very well that the box art was (still is) shit. you can basically ellicit from his comments that they sacrificed pretty, meaningful box art for something faux-CoD and ugly.

DEATHxTHExKIDx2201d ago

its just box art the game is what matters. What if the box art was AMAZING but the game was bad?

mochachino2201d ago

I bet the guy that made the art is crying in a corner somewhere - so much wide spread hate for his work.

Fateful_Knight2200d ago

The most obvious solution, and one that will satisfy everyone, is to just put in a reversable cover. Then there will be the one that's there now for the fratboys, and the real cover on the opposite side for the real gamers. Boom, everyone wins, and everyone is happy.