Ken Levine: BioShock Infinite’s Mundane Box Art Is For The Uninformed

Irrational Games’ Ken Levine has responded to the internet uproar surrounding BioShock Infinite‘s lackluster cover artwork and explained that it was never intended to please current fans of the series.

Speaking to Wired’s Chris Kohler, Levine revealed that they were expecting BioShock fans to be disappointed in the box art but made the choice so Infinite would appeal to gamers who see the game for the first time when it is sitting on the retail shelf.

“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.”

“… BioShock is a reasonably successful franchise, right? Our gaming world, we sometimes forget, is so important to us, but… there are plenty of products that I buy that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about. My salad dressing. If there’s a new salad dressing coming out, I would have no idea. I use salad dressing; I don’t read Salad Dressing Weekly. I don’t care who makes it, I don’t know any of the personalities in the salad dressing business. For some people, [games are] like salad dressing.”

“… It was definitely a reality check for us. Games are big, and they’re expensive, I think that’s very clear. And to be successful, and to continue to make these kinds of games… they have to be financially successful to keep getting made.”

“I looked at the cover art for BioShock 1… And I tried to step back and say, if I’m just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don’t pay attention to them… if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think? And I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl. That’s what I would think… Would I buy that game if I had 60 bucks and I bought three games a year… would I even pick up the box?”

“… I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn’t read IGN… to pick up the box and say, okay, this looks kind of cool, let me turn it over. Oh, a flying city. Look at this girl, Elizabeth on the back. Look at that creature. And start to read about it, start to think about it.”

“… We had to make that tradeoff in terms of where we were spending our marketing dollars. By the time you get to the store, or see an ad, the BioShock fan knows about the game. 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.”

Levine added that he understands why core gamers might want more from BioShock Infinite‘s box art, and promised that Irrational Games is planning to release “a whole set of alternate covers” that fans can download and print out.

While the alternate downloadable covers will likely sooth the disappointed segment of BioShock‘s fan base, I can’t help but wonder how all those frat boys are going to react when they buy the game based on the generic shooter box art and then find out that it doesn’t have a multiplayer mode.

BioShock Infinite is scheduled to launch on February 26, 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. Drop a line in the comments section to let us know your take on box art-gate.

About the author


Justin Alderman

Justin has been a gamer since the Intellivision days back in the early 80′s. He started writing about and covering the video game industry in 2008. In his spare time he is also a bit of a gun-nut and Star Wars nerd.