Ken Levine, the creator of BioShock: Infinite, has explain Irrational Games’ reasoning for using the game’s controversial boxart, explaining it was necessary in order to sway casual punters off the fence.
The packaging art for the hotly-anticipated FPS depicts protagonist Booker DeWitt in a striking pose with a firearm slung over his shoulder, with Elizabeth neglected to the back cover. All in all, it’s not what many people expected from a BioShock title.
Fans unsurprisingly weren’t exactly heaping praise on the art work when it was unveiled last week, though Levine insists there was a reason behind the seemingly uninspired choice.
"I understand that some of the fans are disappointed. We expected it. I know that may be hard to hear, but let me explain the thinking," Levine told Wired.
"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."
“And we live in this very special… you know, 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. Or movies, or TV shows. It was definitely a reality check for us. Games are big, and they’re expensive, I think that’s very clear …. they have to be financially successful to keep getting made."
Levine then approached the cover of the original BioShock from a neutral point of view:
“I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl,” he said. “That’s what I would think. I was trying to be honest with myself.”
"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 went back to the box for System Shock 1, which was obviously incredibly important – that game was incredibly influential on me, System Shock 2 was the first game I ever made. I remember I picked it up… looked at it and I said, I have no idea what this game is. And I didn’t have a lot of money back then. So, back on the shelf. And I was a gamer."
For BioShock: Infinite, the overall objective of the cover is to get regular Joe 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.”
Still, hardcore gamers aren’t being left out in the cold. Levine promised a range of alternate covers that can be downloaded and printed, which will be decided by the community.
“We need to be successful to make these types of games, and I think it’s important, and I think the cover is a small price for the hardcore gamer to pay," he said. "I think also when we do something for the hardcore gamer, there’s something we’re talking about and something we’re sure about. The thing we’re sure about is that we’re going to be releasing a whole set of alternate covers that you can download and print. We’re going to be working with the community to see what they’re interested in."
He added: "We had to make that trade-off 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."
BioShock: Infinite is due out on March 26, 2013 for PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360.