Don’t judge a book by its cover…

Or so the saying goes. Simple fact is, though, that you will. Two books on a shelf, same price, both authors you’re not familiar with – you’ll go for the one with the nicest looking cover.

Same goes for games. Obviously, all of us big game fans have games that we are chomping at the bit for (LittleBigPlanet, anyone?) – and frankly it wouldn’t matter if they published it with the front cover being the title written in crayon above a picture of a steaming great dog turd – we’d still buy it.

Those are just a small proportion of the games that we all buy though. A lot of them are those games which could be good, but you just aren’t sure. To buy, or not to buy, that is the question? And these games could really benefit from some snappy cover art to turn “just looking” into a purchase.

And that is exactly where some publishers seriously drop the ball. Actually, though, I’m not just talking drop the ball, but drop the ball and then it rolls into the road and gets hit by a truck.

What started me thinking about this is that recently, despite it having been out for ages, I bought and started playing “Haze” on the PS3. I am pleasantly surprised by how good this game is turning out, and looking back on it I think that maybe the reason I expected it to be poor was down to this “stunner” of a game cover:

I can sort of see what they were going for, but they’ve missed the point. This is an all guns blazing, shoot-first ask-questions-later kind of game, where you can play co-operatively with four players, and they’ve given us… a bloke with a hole in his mask.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a decent game has struggled with a poor cover. Take this classic Playstation 2 example, The Suffering. I heard it was actually quite good, but (like everyone else) I never dared to pick it up and buy it after seeing this front cover art:

They might as well have printed “All gamers are w*nkers!” instead of “The Suffering” based on the reaction that cover got.

The bloke on the front of the box looks like he’s screaming out “DON’T PLAY THIS! I DID, AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO ME!”.

Not the worst example of the genre, but a slightly poor one is this, for Crackdown:

The cartoon styling screams out “We ripped off GTA!” which, they sort of did, but the fact is Crackdown is very different to GTA. Also, the endorsement from a magazine is from an “Official” magazine, where no-one takes the scores seriously for one second. But by far the worst thing is the massive “Includes invite to Halo 3 beta” sticker, which as far as I’m concerned might as well say “This is sh*t, but all you Halo fanboys will buy it anyway”.

Thing is, Crackdown wasn’t sh*t, in fact I very much enjoyed it (particularly playing with a friend), but the fact that it might be sh*t was the impression I was left with when I saw the cover.

Still, this might not be a problem for too much longer, with more and more games becoming available over download services, and broadband finally becoming available at a semi-decent speed. It didn’t take me too long to download Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty – a three gig download – the other day, and that’s over old-fashioned copper wires, not even fibre. It has to be said, Pixeljunk Eden, which I love, wouldn’t exactly have leapt into my shopping basket if I was in a shop and the front cover was a representation of what the game is about.

So who knows, maybe with download services thriving as home internet connections speed up, games developers may be spared the mercy of having their game appear in the shops with some god-awful picture (dis)gracing the front of the box – and we’ll all be a lot happier.


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7 responses to “Don’t judge a book by its cover…”

  1. Kirsten avatar

    Funnily enough the little icon for the downloadable Ratchet and Clank is sort of low res and jaggy looking which is a bit off putting. It’s hard to be excited about a game with no cover, or disk or in fact anything tangible. I know people said that about vinyl albums versus CD albums versus downloadable albums but I think that still stands. I don’t get as excited about music and album (in fact all music) sales have plummeted over the last twenty years.

  2. Tony avatar
    Tony

    I know what you mean to a point. I still buy almost all of my music on CD because I like having the disc and the artwork etc.

    But when I think about it, this is all that happens when I get a new CD:

    1) Open case
    2) Stick CD into Mac
    3) iTunes rips it and ejects it
    4) I chuck the CD back on the pile of CDs and never touch it again.

    So I might as well be digital!

  3. Michael avatar

    Many people who bought Crackdown apparently didn’t bother with the Halo 3 Beta, going by figures floating about… somewhere.

    I know it might be wrong but I don’t usually pass any remarks on cover art; if there’s a game I have been keeping tabs on, that’s it bought. I don’t go in the shop, look at the case, go “Sweet Jesus, that looks utter SHIT!” and refuse to buy it.

  4. Ben avatar
    Ben

    My pet hate is games that have no artwork on the spine and is just a white label with a standard font stating its name, ruins the feng shui of my game shelf.

    I don’t want things to go digital, I like having the box in my hand!

  5. Skill avatar
    Skill

    Having the box is nice, but digital’s good for the environment. No packaging, no transport, no actual disc which produces CO2 in its manufacture.

    Mind you, when it came to the box art for Halo, I think the Bungie Art Department was on holiday.
    It looks like one of the developers got a pre-school kid to do it.

  6. Nick avatar
    Nick

    I love the simplistic cover of the Final Fantasy games. I always wondered why they change it for the North America release as the cover goes from Classic Stylish to Gaudy Cheap-shite.

  7. Emily avatar

    I agree with that ugly ‘The Suffering’ cover, but I kind of like Haze’s. There doesn’t seem to be much yellow about and it looks refreshing.

    Also agree with Nick about FF. Our PAL version looks classy and smart, elsewhere it’s a mash-up of the characters.

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