What the Heck Happened to Video Game Box Art?

Does it feel like the box art for every video game these days is the protagonist... just kind of standing there with, I dunno, a gun or a sword, probably scowling? You are not alone. Jacob Christensen noticed too. Yup: video game box art these days absolutely sucks. And the reasons why are complicated.

For obvious practical reasons, a CGI render of the main character wasn’t possible in the early days of video games. Instead box art had to depict some sense of what you could expect to experience in the game—a sense of danger, adventure, or exploration. Technical limitations (and a market largely unfamiliar with video games) led to some memorable artwork back then.

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It would be easy to pin the death of good box art squarely on digital downloads. Without a physical product, the necessity simply isn’t there, and a similar fate has certainly befallen CD covers and movie posters. But as Christensen points out, evocative covers in video games went down the tubes way before the age of reliable broadband and cheap terabyte hard drives.

Watch below, and learn that some of the ugliest boxes in 3D console history had gorgeous art... just not in America. We did this to ourselves, folks.

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Bryan Menegus

Senior reporter. Tech + labor /// bgmwrites@gmail.com Keybase: keybase.io/bryangm Securedrop: http://gmg7jl25ony5g7ws.onion/

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