For years, we have been buying video games with shitty package design and there has never been a reason to change. We don’t usually buy based on the attractiveness of a package when it comes to gaming. We know what the game is before hand, so for all we care, it could just be a brown box with the title written on it in sharpie. That has caused a huge amount of laziness with game box art. Take for example the US box for Resident Evil 4.
This formula is very common.
-Main character in front
-Enemies/secondary characters in back
-Concept art for backdrop
-HUGE fuckin logo smack dab in the most obvious location (i.e., upper third)
This pattern is used for one reason: its safe. It shows just the right amount of info in the most boring unoriginal way, that you cant miss it. It gives no reflection of the product itself, it just says “hey its resident evil with evil zombies and guns WHOOO!”
95% of game packaging follows this pattern in some way. See for yourself:
But for some reason, Capcom Europe has some balls:
Its simple, its moody, but most of all, it leaves an impact. It uses 2 colors, red and black. But its used in a way to create a tension in the visual shapes. You see the character with a bagged head and a chainsaw standing there in the trees, and you know this game is most certainly NOT for the faint of heart. It doesn’t show any other characters, no concept art, no fancy type effects. Just a few shapes and a logo.
laziness is where the danger resides. As much as the hardcore seems to hate this new casual audience, it is necessary to help keep the hardcore lineup of titles existing. And this audience doesn’t know what’s out there so when they take a trip to the local electronic purveyor, all they are exposed is design. And lemme tell you, even the casual games have shitty boxes.
I applaud Nintendo and the approach they took to the Wii packaging. Rather than smother it in foreign (to them) game characters and bright colors, they focused on the design of the hardware and brought a concept out of that: simple, approachable, clean, and bright. Not only that, but they made the unpackaging an experience. Rather than a cluttered form of cardboard and Styrofoam, the Nintendo designers knew exactly what they were doing in making this as simple of a process and possible. Upon opening the flap for the first time you are greeted with two trays, with icons showing what each tray contains.
In closing, the game development community needs to wake up a bit. While you may not give a damn what’s on the box, I promise you, graphic design DOES matter, and it DOES affect what people want to buy. We cant keep producing good games with shitty boxes for much longer. While there are shining examples, (GTA IV had an excellent use of purposefully mis-kerned Helvetica, a reflection of the generic and commercialized Liberty City) they need to start hiring designers that know what the hell they’re doing not just in the visuals of a package, but the impact of the product as a whole. A box is your first taste of what the whole product is, and smart, clever, intelligent design can make all the difference between an underwhelming experience and a "holy crap this game is gonna kick ass" experience.