Video game cover art has been around for just about as long as video games themselves. If anything, back in the early days of video games, it was even more important than it is now. This was because that was the best way of conveying the game designers’ vision of what the game itself represented. This was because the early video game graphics had to be very basic, so the players themselves perhaps needed to use their imagination a bit more than they have to now.
I remember the first-ever game I owned which was Midnight Resistance on the Commodore 64 and I thought it was amazing. It was in a box with 3 other games and I can still remember the box art, but I used to look at how good the graphics were on the back of the box.
The cover and graphics on the back of the cassettes that I got for my C64 had to look good for me to buy them. “Wow! Mum! Can I have £2.50 to buy this game for my new Commodore 64? The graphics look amazing!”
But now I’ve been playing games for a good 20 years, does cover art now sway my opinion on whether to part with my cash for a game? It can’t help for the cover to be aesthetically pleasing as developers/publishers want to show off their game before you even play it.
For some reason, I do like the video game cover art to bleed round onto the spine of the box as I think it looks nice on my shelf with my other games rather than plain white spines. I don’t know why this is. It’s not like the game will become that much better because it’s got an extra bit of colour on the box.
I think it is important in marketing purposes, however, as there have been a few games that I’ve seen on the shelves in the shops, that I’ve never really heard of before, and if the cover art is shocking, I turn my nose up and move on. But why? I could be missing on out a real gem of a game. It’s not just the cover art but the screenshots that they put on the back on the box as well.
Games like Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank have great box art, but I probably think that because I love that style of art and I’m sure there are some people out there who aren’t so keen. Whereas some games like Final Fantasy XIII has a very simple cover design, but it’s effective and iconic. I would have bought the game regardless as I have every Final Fantasy game (bar FFXI) sat on my shelf.
But nowadays, you can buy games digitally to download whether it be for main consoles, PC’s or handhelds, so is cover art becoming obsolete?
When I do buy games on PSN, XBLA or Steam there’s no need for cover art. I like to see clips of the game and how it plays, other players ratings of the games, what the main gaming websites gave for their reviews. But I do prefer to have my own boxed copy of games sitting on my shelf to show off just how much of a nerd I am and how many games I’ve got, which often leads to a few eye-rolls from the missus.
Nowadays I always look into games before I buy them, by reading previews, reviews, watching videos of the gameplay etc. Storylines are a big selling point for me. If it’s got a good story like Uncharted 2: Among Thieves then I’m hooked. It’s not essential but helps me in my decision rather than how good the box looks.
So is the cover art on games important to me? No. But it’s a bonus if they look pretty.
What do you think of video game cover art? Is it still an important factor in gaming for you? Or should companies spend their development cash on something more worthwhile?
This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part of this, please email him for details.
Other opinions on the subject of game cover art:
- Man Fat: How Important Is A Game’s Cover Art?
- carocat.co.uk: Cover art? No, thanks!
- The Average Gamer: Cover Art
- Silvercublogger: Don’t Cover The Art, Unless…
- Aim for the Head: Browsing the Aisles
- SnipingMizzy: In the eye of the beholder
- Extra Guy: On Books and Covers
- Pioneer Project: The game box’s big moment
Danny ‘Ender’ Martin has been part of the Zath team from pretty much the very beginning since he met Zath himself at Leeds Met University whilst studying Business IT. He’s an avid gamer and a big film buff. Danny graduated from the University of Bradford with a degree in Computer Animation and SFX and now currently works at one of the biggest UK games developers, which will hopefully see some of his ideas hit the gaming world.