Yes, BioShock Infinite's Cover is Terrible, and Yes, That Actually Matters

Illustration for article titled Yes, emBioShock Infinite/ems 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.

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"You have a game involving floating islands, mechanical creatures of all shapes and sizes, the existance of realityshifting and timebending 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."

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"Bioshock has always been the antithesis of games with this generic look (Call of Duty, lookin' you square in the fuckin' 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.

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And then there's this:

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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.

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Illustration for article titled Yes, emBioShock Infinite/ems Cover is Terrible, and Yes, That Actually Matters

BioShock Infinite's cover art, released earlier today.

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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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Whether or not BioShock Infinite's cover should feature the game's protagonist or its main adversary, this cover tells me nothing about what sets BioShock Infinite apart from all other games involving a hero 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.

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DISCUSSION

So we're literally making judgements about the game based on its cover?...good job Internet.

The comments about Booker are odd, because we've already seen that he's a dark haired white guy with a troubled past who uses older timey guns.

How does that even make him generic, when he's a wearing a suit and weapons that don't fit the time period of the game's people are pointing to as making this generic?

I know that the Nathan Drake comment is there because he has the brown straps...but nothing else is similar down to his facial structure.

We've seen the game already, it hardly looks generic in EVERY piece of gameplay footage shown.

This is likely to get people outside the demographic that would already buy Bioshock to pick up this game, and when they turn the box around they'll get a rundown on what the game does different

It's not a big deal.