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#1 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

With the popularity of steam, XBLA, PSN and eShop, and the rising popularity of gamefly and other mail in rentals. Is the era of cover art now unnecessary? I've been playing Minecraft for a year and a half, and just now found out there's cover art. It seems with the death of the game manual, I can see the art resources being cut down to only showcase the title and maybe a picture for digital purchases. Am I crazy, do you think boxart will always be a thing, even well into the digital era of gaming? It was just a thought that hit me earlier, wanted to know if this could be possible.

#2 Posted by FluxWaveZ (19307 posts) -

Retail console/handheld games still exist.

So no.

#3 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@FluxWaveZ said:

Retail console/handheld games still exist.

So no.

This is more of a question of the future, when consoles and handhelds will lack a card or cd slot.

#4 Edited by FluxWaveZ (19307 posts) -

@BestUsernameEver said:

This is more of a question of the future, when consoles and handhelds will lack a card or cd slot.

Then that's a completely different question, because I'm not too sure that future is a given, at least anytime soon.

If everything was digital then no, there would be no need for "box art" but just smaller art that makes it easier to navigate online stores.

#5 Posted by Dalai (6991 posts) -

No, but give it a generation or two when digital distribution becomes the norm.

#6 Posted by Rainbowkisses (472 posts) -

Boxart will be a thing only as long as boxes are a thing. But promotional art will never die.

#7 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@FluxWaveZ said:

@BestUsernameEver said:

This is more of a question of the future, when consoles and handhelds will lack a card or cd slot.

Then that's a completely different question, because I'm not too sure that future is a given, at least anytime soon.

If everything was digital then no, there would be no need for "box art" but just smaller art that makes it easier to navigate online stores.

Not a different question, it was the original one lol.

#8 Posted by Colourful_Hippie (4330 posts) -

Ehh, there's always room in the online store for where the box art can go. Staring at a list of titles would be too bland.

#9 Posted by Ubersmake (754 posts) -

Even with digital distribution, someone has to design and illustrate the banner images that you scroll through. I mean, look at the next Steam Sale, and imagine how boring it would be without all the game-specific artwork.

#10 Posted by MattyFTM (14341 posts) -

Retail games aren't going away anywhere fast. Everyone keeps going on about this "all digital future", but it's a long way off. A lot longer than some people are predicting.

And even when they do disappear, games still need a flashy, attention grabbing piece of art to get people's attention. It won't strictly be a "box art" since there isn't a box for it to be on, but it'll be there on digital storefronts. In fact, digital games just gives more freedom for that kind of stuff. Instead of needing to be the exact size of a DVD case, it's possible to have different shapes and sizes. No need to conform to such restrictive size limitations. It's not strictly box art but it serves the same purpose.

Moderator
#11 Posted by Sooty (8082 posts) -

It's already unnecessary to me.

#12 Posted by psylah (2162 posts) -

Darksiders 1 had awesome, reflective cover art. It's dope.

And on some PS3 games, they put art on the flipside of the slip covers. Turning over the Demon's Souls slipcover shows a totally bitchin' illustration of the Dragon God.

Box art shouldn't go away. It's a totally valid reason to buy physical.

#13 Posted by TyCobb (1945 posts) -

Box art for me died when PC games started coming in smaller boxes. Remember the old massive box sizes? I can't even find a decent image on Google. It seems like something lost in time.

#14 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@MattyFTM said:

Retail games aren't going away anywhere fast. Everyone keeps going on about this "all digital future", but it's a long way off. A lot longer than some people are predicting.

And even when they do disappear, games still need a flashy, attention grabbing piece of art to get people's attention. It won't strictly be a "box art" since there isn't a box for it to be on, but it'll be there on digital storefronts. In fact, digital games just gives more freedom for that kind of stuff. Instead of needing to be the exact size of a DVD case, it's possible to have different shapes and sizes. No need to conform to such restrictive size limitations. It's not strictly box art but it serves the same purpose.

We all do agree the digital future will come though. I didn't say it's immediate. My prediction for what will happen to boxart, it will morph into a landscape design to fit with Steam style banners. I personally think vertical cover art will go away, but not cover art in general.

#15 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

They still make album covers for music despite the fact that nobody has bought a CD in over 12 years.

#16 Posted by Phatmac (5721 posts) -

I'd rather buy a game on steam instead of driving to a store and buying it there. So goodbye box art.

#17 Posted by prestonhedges (1965 posts) -

Game box art has been terrible and boring the past few years, though, so good riddance.

#18 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@MikkaQ said:

They still make album covers for music despite the fact that nobody has bought a CD in over 12 years.

True, but cover art used to be interesting and iconic, I can't think of any recent (last 10 years) album arts that are praised. Remember the sg. pepper art, pink floyd art, daft punks debut album? They're all known as pretty much transcending album art, to being culture symbols.

#19 Posted by MikkaQ (10268 posts) -

@BestUsernameEver said:

@MikkaQ said:

They still make album covers for music despite the fact that nobody has bought a CD in over 12 years.

True, but cover art used to be interesting and iconic, I can't think of any recent (last 10 years) album arts that are praised. Remember the sg. pepper art, pink floyd art, daft punks debut album? They're all known as pretty much transcending album art, to being culture symbols.

I still think there's a lot of cool album art being made today. It's just not as big of a deal these days I guess. But I feel like if I were looking back in 10 years I'd fondly remember a good number of them. Like that first Justice cover of the giant gold space-cross, that was pretty dramatic.

#20 Posted by JasonR86 (9604 posts) -

@FluxWaveZ said:

Retail console/handheld games still exist.

So no.

#21 Posted by That1BlackGuy (217 posts) -

I make cover art as a hobby so even in the situation that it died at the retail level (which I doubt), I'd still do it to promote games I liked. Even with a digital distribution only environment, as others have pointed out you still need a piece of art there to add a bit of spice to titles, I'd rather not go on PSN and see a big ass list of titles with no visual identity to immediately associate them with.

#22 Posted by Hizang (8534 posts) -

Nah.

#23 Posted by Superkenon (1381 posts) -

It'll be quite awhile before retail goes away, so boxes and their art will continue to persist as well.

Even if things do shift that way and all we have are digital releases, "box art" will still exist. It's just as necessary to catch your eye in an online store as it is in a tangible, brick 'n mortar store.

#24 Posted by huntad (1930 posts) -

These kind of topics always spark me as "rose-colored glasses" type things. People fondly remember the past, but look to the future with some sort of weird, misplaced dread. No, that's not a word-for-word definition of the idiom, but it's what I see when these threads pop up. To answer the question at hand, no.

#25 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -
#26 Edited by dvdhaus (355 posts) -

There will be another generation of consoles that have a slot drive so not for at least 10 years. Nintendo's Wii U has a drive, Sony will probably not give up on Blu-ray as a medium so the Playstation 4 will most likely have that as a drive. Microsoft will probably not want to piss off retail and will come up with some sort of high density disk just like Nintendo. Retail is still a major factor in the console market, until that market drops lower or until digital distribution becomes more feasible on consoles, meaning I do not need to pay Microsoft a lot of money for a decent size hard drive, I will stick with buying games for consoles on discs.

#27 Edited by jonnyboy (2920 posts) -

Male protagonist, upper two thirds of body, facing towards camera, center box.

Take any box of your shelf now, chances are this is what your looking at.

Box art isn't dead, imaginative box art is.

#28 Posted by evanbower (1210 posts) -
XBLA box art

My favourite box art this year was for a digital only game, so I'm gonna say no.

#29 Edited by handlas (2658 posts) -

I would say no but I thought the same thing about music. I just loved that CD case artwork! Now I only listen to Spotify. I imagine all my games will be digital in the future. I don't do it now because there just simply isn't enough harddrive space to store it all and it's annoying deleting games I have to download other games (plus I have concern with not having the hard copy of something as expensive as a game I pay for while Spotify I'm paying a subscription).

Still... being in the design industry myself... I enjoy looking at pretty pictures and hope they don't go away.

#30 Posted by Brodehouse (9576 posts) -

Promotional images will exist as long as there is something to promote.

#31 Posted by GERALTITUDE (2911 posts) -

What in the world? Neither the first post nor the comments are what I expected. I thought we all agreed box art died with game manuals, cloth maps and cardboard. Obviously literal game boxes with some kind of image will exist for an extremely long time, at one point semi-replaced by digital versions, but box art? Gone the way of the dodo. We get, what, a half dozen games a years that don't have groan worthy boxes?

#32 Posted by Apparatus_Unearth (3103 posts) -

I hope not, I love box art/album art.

#33 Edited by Wong_Fei_Hung (642 posts) -

I saw one of the best box art's I've ever seen today, so no.

eShop has in-store retail versions also, for the big games.

#34 Posted by Gamer_152 (14051 posts) -

Well physical copies of games are still a huge thing and are going to be around for some time to come, so no, not by a long shot. Even with downloadable games there's still plenty of chance to showcase box art. On a service like Steam it's not really a serious thing, and it's possible future services just won't really care about it, but I think XBLA does a pretty good job of showing off box art. I find Minecraft and Fez's box art a couple of the most memorable of the past year and they're both downloadable.

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#35 Posted by Vextroid (1358 posts) -

When Steam let you re-skin the Icons for the game in the Grid view. I make my own cover art.

Plus retail wont be going anywhere for a while.

#36 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@jonnyboy said:

Male protagonist, upper two thirds of body, facing towards camera, center box.

Take any box of your shelf now, chances are this is what your looking at.

Box art isn't dead, imaginative box art is.

Yeah, pretty much this. I am sure it will swing right back around, it always does.

#37 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

no, i don't think so. there are still going to be people who draw stuff for banners for the game, digital thing.

#38 Edited by Coafi (1481 posts) -

You know what I miss? Those old Konami NES covers.

GB box art (cropped)
GB box art (cropped)

There's a lot more, not going to post them all. But, something about the layout really appeals to me, the way the art pops out in the middle and the logo is perfectly placed on top. I wish game companies pay a bit more attention to the art and design that should go into these, instead of slapping some 3d-models and calling it art.

#39 Posted by devilzrule27 (1239 posts) -

No boxart wont go away, even with digital distribution. Well at least the purpose of the box art wont go away. Companies will still create visually stimulating thumb nails for digital stores that will serve the same purpose as box art does on retail shelves. It's there to draw a customers eyes toward it and while you are browsing through a digital store front a striking image will still make your eyes gravitate to it. Making you more likely to click said game and therefore more likely to buy the game.

#40 Posted by mlarrabee (2885 posts) -

I think the era of good box art is dead.

Sure, we get a Bulletstorm every once in a while, but we've a lot more Red Dead Redemptions, Halo Reaches, and Arkham Cities than are good for us. And even Bulletstorm's box art wasn't gorgeous, but simply expediently explanatory.

I mean, just look at this:

No one needs to ask what this game is about. Title, demons, id Software. It's the decimated speed bag of box art.

#41 Posted by Grand (53 posts) -

@FluxWaveZ said:

@BestUsernameEver said:

This is more of a question of the future, when consoles and handhelds will lack a card or cd slot.

Then that's a completely different question, because I'm not too sure that future is a given, at least anytime soon.

If everything was digital then no, there would be no need for "box art" but just smaller art that makes it easier to navigate online stores.

Not really. The answer to both questions is "Yes" it is dead. Hand held games are a minority, always lower in sells and popularity than ANY console or online based game. As for retail games, most people are aware of games through previous, trailers and game play videos. They don't care about the games gnarly box art, they care about the IN GAME graphics and play-ability. All the future (when everything is available for download) will bring is absolute necessity for trailers and game play videos.

#42 Posted by Sbaitso (498 posts) -

@Grand: That kind of assumes everyone playing games follows them closely. For the guy who goes into a game store to see what's new, box art and the limited information on the back are pretty important. Or for the parent trying to judge the content of a game while in the store with their child. Not all game players are "gamers".

#43 Edited by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@Grand said:

@FluxWaveZ said:

@BestUsernameEver said:

This is more of a question of the future, when consoles and handhelds will lack a card or cd slot.

Then that's a completely different question, because I'm not too sure that future is a given, at least anytime soon.

If everything was digital then no, there would be no need for "box art" but just smaller art that makes it easier to navigate online stores.

Not really. The answer to both questions is "Yes" it is dead. Hand held games are a minority, always lower in sells and popularity than ANY console or online based game. As for retail games, most people are aware of games through previous, trailers and game play videos. They don't care about the games gnarly box art, they care about the IN GAME graphics and play-ability. All the future (when everything is available for download) will bring is absolute necessity for trailers and game play videos.

Absolutely true. Boxart still exists, but it exists in more of a tradtional sense than serving a purpose. I know very few people that go to Gamestop with nothing in mind, and pick the 'coolest' looking box.

#44 Posted by Grand (53 posts) -

Although I will say that since consoles have gone towards the casual audience far more than they cater to we hardcore gamers, the boxart still has an important hold since boxart or word of mouth is what tends to attract the casual audience. Example, Minecraft originally didnt HAVE covert art. That came later.

SOURCE: My buddy who thinks hes a game deity, Travis.

#45 Posted by Bourbon_Warrior (4523 posts) -

Nope I still buy PC games in boxes unless they on sale on steam

#46 Posted by gaminghooligan (1406 posts) -

I live in West Virginia, in a city, but if you live out in the boonies like most people high-speed internet is an impossibility let alone the ability to get internet at all being a luxury. So those people are forced to buy box retail, they are also just shit-out-of-luck on patches and online gaming. So I would imagine many other states have the same problem, and it will eventually be those people that feed the hard copy game market. As for box art, I think there's a setting on steam that shows your games library with the box art displayed I-Tunes style.

#47 Posted by BestUsernameEver (4825 posts) -

@gaminghooligan said:

I live in West Virginia, in a city, but if you live out in the boonies like most people high-speed internet is an impossibility let alone the ability to get internet at all being a luxury. So those people are forced to buy box retail, they are also just shit-out-of-luck on patches and online gaming. So I would imagine many other states have the same problem, and it will eventually be those people that feed the hard copy game market. As for box art, I think there's a setting on steam that shows your games library with the box art displayed I-Tunes style.

My main point was, sometime in the FAR future when internet is a common resource, what role will box art play, if any. I think it's a safe bet to predict the aspect ratio of boxart today, all shifting to the banner layout like on Steam.

#48 Posted by mandude (2669 posts) -

I think "terminally ill" is more suitable.

It's still there, it's still got a while left, but we're at the stage where we can accurately predict why and when it will go.

#49 Posted by GERALTITUDE (2911 posts) -

Digitally distribution will, if anything, only increase the importance of box art, not reduce it. The fact that box art is less, let's say, "artistic" than it was in the past is evidence of this, not a counter. The number of games available to buy is increasing rapidly year-over-year. The number of gamers is increasing extremely fast. The number of people who know which games they're going to buy before they walk (log on) to the store is, at most, inching. This is turning video games into comic books; they are sold by name association, cover coolness (digital or fer real) and back of the box bullet points.

#50 Edited by GalacticGravy (544 posts) -

I'll weigh in on this, seeing as though I started a blog dedicated to video game cover art critique.

Cover art is a marketing tool. It's often a first impression and sometimes a lasting memory. When we see artwork, we craft a story whether we like it or not. Sometimes we get bored and never finish the story, and sometimes we stare into it and wonder who these people really are. What are their struggles? Who are the heroes and villains of their world? If the cover is crafted properly we ask these ever more specific questions first and then seek to answer them. If the cover is crafted poorly we ask ourselves very vague questions like “...the fuck?” and aren't driven to answer them. Having compelling cover art isn't just to look pretty. That beauty serves to set your mind on fire with possibilities. Remember that often the game we dream up when we see the box is better than the real thing.

So is box art going away? Eventually, perhaps. But forget that it sits on a box. Cover art is simply the front-facing image we give our audience. Some day there won't be boxes. Then some day there won't be images. Maybe they'll just beam the memories of a twenty second trailer into your brain. That will serve the same purpose and, spiritually, is the same.

If you are interested in reading more about the art of video game covers please PM me and I'll send you a link to my blog. I'd post it but I don't think we're allowed to hawk our own projects here.