Yes, BioShock Infinite's Cover Is Terrible, And Yes, That Actually Matters

2K Games revealed the box art for BioShock Infinite this morning and the verdict on it was swift and disapproving.

"You have a game involving floating islands, mechanical creatures of all shapes and sizes, the existence of reality-shifting and time-bending magic and sky-ziplines," said Redditor Gregar in a thread almost unanimous in its disappointment. "And the best you can come up with is a Generic, Grizzled, White Protagonist that you can't even see, because it's First Person, holding a generic shotgun over his shoulder.

"Bioshock has always been the antithesis of games with this generic look (Call of Duty, lookin' you square in the f**kin' face)," said another commenter, on the game's Facebook page. "Kinda disappointing to see they've embraced that."

"As the female character is one of the main reasons I'm intrigued by this game, I kind of wish they'd put her on the box art, too," reasoned Kotaku reader RetroGamer.

Our friends at DualShockers pointed out the same lack of Elizabeth. "Why did they ask Max Payne for their cover?" inquired Kotaku reader GaoGaiGar, if rhetorically. "Starring Nathan Drake?" said Reddit's DR_oberts.

And then there's this:

The best you can say for the cover art of BioShock Infinite is that it is bland. The worst you can say is that it is cliché, fitting the worst cover-art trope of them all — chin-down, eyes-up, as the video comedy troupe Mega64 absolutely nailed in this video back in September. And it's nowhere near as imaginative or as evocative as what comic-book artist Alex Garner drew earlier this year (featured above), even if that followed a similar magazine-cover design published by Game Informer more than two years ago.

Why should this matter? As a writer or a gamer, I'm not personally concerned with 2K Games' success in marketing the game. If it picks a terrible cover for a fantastic game, it won't affect my enjoyment or my appraisal of what's on the disc.

But as this site's sports writer, I view cover subjects in a completely different light. The athlete on the cover of Madden, of FIFA, of NBA 2K, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, NCAA or, next year, MLB The Show is a relevant news topic. Fans get into arguments over this all the time.

This March I asked Anthony Stevenson, the marketing director for Madden NFL, why a cover matters, especially as games move to digital distribution.

"When we look back, five years from now, even at Madden NFL 12, it's going to be a snapshot of where the NFL universe was at that time," Stevenson reasoned.

He's right. Madden NFL 12 was a disappointment in the series and Peyton Hillis, of all players, was one of its worst cover subjects, in terms of individual fame and performance, ever. Though Hillis was chosen in a popularity contest, he represented an era "with fantasy football in its prime," as "a player who won a lot of leagues for a lot of people." He represents more of a snapshot of his game, in its time, than whatever the hell this is that 2K just released.

Conversely, if BioShock Infinite's cover is an accurate snapshot of what this game is on the day of release, then its devoted fans are right to suspect what's inside is corrupted by mass marketing and movie-hero FPS clichés. I don't believe that will be the case, but this is the face of one of a few games coming next year that will release to high artistic expectation.

Whether or not BioShock Infinite's cover should feature the game's protagonist (which is a BioShock first) or its main adversary (as the last two covers have), this cover tells me nothing about what sets BioShock Infinite apart from all other games involving a protagonist with a gun.

The disappointed reaction is not that this cover takes no risks, it's that it sends the message the game isn't going to take risks, either. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to see it. either.


Comments

    And yet, it doesn't fucking matter. Not one little bit.

      Yeah. I'm not exactly broken up over the lack of a pretty picture on the wrapper that's going to get shoved into a DVD rack and stay there.

      http://gametyrant.co/storage/0999-post-images/Ico.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1344381990306 it kinda matters

      I always know what games I will/wont buy....makes me wonder how important cover art for some people...

      but god this looks so generic it could be a parody

      Yeah i know right i actually dont know why they say its shit.. Its atually pretty good a mean comon when its out wouldnt it stand out from the other games from the colours and all?

    Hey, you know what would be awesome? ACTUALLY HAVING THE PICTURE ON THIS PAGE.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=313790832067579&set=a.172850259494971.36018.137963916316939

    The header of the article is NOT the cover, which made the article utterly confusing- complaints about there being no girl when she is there? What? Oh, wait, it's Kotaku and they don't bother checking their articles for not being stupid etc. sigh.

      Thanks for the pic. I actually like it. Only thing it is missing is more boobs. Cause you know, boobs.

      The picture above is only confusing, if you don't read the article.

      "And it’s nowhere near as imaginative or as evocative as what comic-book artist Alex Garner drew earlier this year (featured above), even if that followed a similar magazine-cover design published by Game Informer more than two years ago."

      Also that link won't work for me. But is the art in this article the right one? http://www.kotaku.com.au/2012/12/heres-the-box-art-for-bioshock-infinite/

      Yes not having the cover in an article complaining about the cover is bad, and I'm a bit sick of what I'm seeing as Generic covers and it's not going to impact my enjoyment of the game. The biggest problem I have is the Bioshock cover which featured the Big Daddy a monstrous looking diving suit with a big Drill for an arm. Awesome, Atmohpheric, Intimidating. And than Bioshock Infinite and it's a dude with a shotgun. I think somebody needs to slap the marketing department. Unique is good, we want more Bioshock not more of somethine else.

      Last edited 02/12/12 1:22 pm

        The quote appears after reading a bunch of the article, so the start of the article is indeed confusing thanks to having a different pic. I know I started reading thinking "that cover looks cool, what are they on about?"

    "The disappointed reaction is not that this cover takes no risks, it’s that it sends the message the game isn't going to take risks, either. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to see it. either."

    You are literally judging a game by its cover. How about we make those type of accusations after we play it, yea?

      Actually, that saying is in reference to images that stand out from the crowd, that gives the sense of unfamiliarity.

      If you were walking through the store and walked past Bioshock with this cover surrounded by many other FPS games with the same cover, you won't notice it. If it was the other fan made cover surrounded by all similar FPS covers you would immediately notice it and pay attention to it. You will be curious why this game is so different from the others. You will then "not judge the book by its cover" and purcahse it to discover why this game is so different.

        Is that our problem to worry about now? Is it up to us to backseat drive their marketing campaigns?

        Literally no one complaining about this cover is going to let the cover influence their decision to buy this game.

          Obviously. The problem is that uninformed people who may enjoy the game will probably overlook it (especially if they know nothing about the Bioshock games, live under a rock and lack the internet).

            Except for two things. 1) Even the scumbags buying video games at K-Mart aren't mindless sheep that need to be tricked into buying the first game they pick up (the uninformed actually tend to be the people who read the back of the all the boxes). 2) Generic covers and movie posters actually do well, especially compared to the in-reference filled fangasm stuff that only serves to capture the people who had already decided to buy the game (those are what Collectors Editions are for).

            I love detailed, well thought out posters and covers. I've got a few here I'd love to have made into full sized posters. But there's nothing wrong with making something that isn't a grand piece of art considering video game covers are about as important in modern marketing as pre-trailer-teasers.

          Is that our problem to worry about now? Is it up to us to backseat drive their marketing campaigns?

          Although you intend that to be a sarcastic retort, the answer is actually an increasing yes. A lot more marketing these days is reliant upon social network actions such as like-ing things, playing social games that unlock content in the game but also spread the word via pings to your friends, tweeting certain hash tags and other similar things. You also have tactics like Bioware's "Pick your femshep" marketing promotion which served to both generate hype and also let fans drive the marketing.

    If you judged US Kotaku writers by their headlines then .... Actually the articles are conceited and misleading as well.

    steam digital download, only console kiddies would fuss about a cover

      Wait, what - so you finally gave up on becoming a pirate, then? ;)

      ASK ME ABOUT LOOM

    It's actually worse than a generic shooter type of cover.

    "Whether or not BioShock Infinite‘s cover should feature the game’s protagonist (which is a BioShock first) or its main adversary (as the last two covers have)..."
    Didn't Bioshock 2 have Subject Delta (i.e the protagonist) on the cover?

      Yup. The Big Daddy who looks suspiciously like Bomberman with a little sister riding on his back.

      It was also a pretty bloody terrible cover, but at least it gave a slightly better insight into what the game was all about than this one.

      Last edited 02/12/12 6:54 pm

    I don't see the problem.
    However, let's line up MW3, BF3, Halo 4, Deus ex: HR, The witcher 2, and their ilk, and spot the difference.

    At least bioshock is a LITTLE different.

    hahahahaha im still buying the game, im sold on game play and the fact that the dev's want to improve on and make a better game not game covers, to think anyone would make a fuss over a cover is fucking hilarious!!

    Owen - "The disappointed reaction is not that this cover takes no risks, it’s that it sends the message the game isn’t going to take risks, either. No one wants to hear that. No one wants to see it. either."

    Hmmmm a bit of a stretch there.

    This summer, Nathan Drake in Back to the Future!

    "The disappointed reaction is not that this cover takes no risks"

    Did everyone miss the burning American flag?

    Covers are generally terrible. For some inspration, they should take a look at how the Criterion Collection does their blu-ray/dvd covers. Much better than the boring protagonist front-and-centre style that keeps getting churned out.

    forget what the cover looks like, aslong as the name is wrinten on the case binder so i can see them when i put them in a dvd rack

    I don't understand what people are stressing about, YES it does look like a COD or BF cover art, but I understand 2K's ideas behind it. Also people are stressing about the absence of floating city style/Columbia images... who cares, this is only the front, no back page has been seen yet and look in the top left corner, DO I SEE A BLIMP? I personally don't think the cover is that bad :/

    It's a shame, but ultimately I'll only ever really see the name on the spine. It doesn't really represent the game well though.

    Hopefully there'll be a better cover on the inside that gamers who care can switch it to - like Ico etc.

    OHMIGOD. Gamers complaining about something with the latest game. STOP THE PRESSES!!!!

    TO THE INTERNETS!@!$(

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