BioShock Infinite’s Box Art Designed for “Frat Guys”

Bioshock Infinite creative director Ken Levine has explained that the reason behind the game’s arguaby unimaginative box art is entirely based on marketing techniques — specifically, to attract gamers who don’t already know about the game.

Speaking with Wired, Levine explained how, currently, BioShock isn’t widely known by the greater gaming community, despite its success. He said:

“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.”

Levine went on to describe the ensuing epiphany he had regarding box art:

“I looked at the cover art for BioShock 1, which I was heavily involved with and love, I adored. And I tried to step back and say, if I’m just some guy, some frat guy, I love games but don’t pay attention to them… if I saw the cover of that box, what would I think? And I would think, this is a game about a robot and a little girl. [...] 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.”

“I wanted the uninformed, the person who doesn’t read IGN… 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.”

What do you think of BioShock Infinite’s box art? Does it bother you that it was designed to cater to the Call of Duty/Battlefield crowd of AAA FPS players?

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7 Comments on BioShock Infinite’s Box Art Designed for “Frat Guys”


On December 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This doesn’t bother me at all, its a very pragmatic and business oriented decision which I wholly support. I actually didn’t expect Levine, who always sounds like a dreamer in interviews, to have such a down-to-earth revelation. Besides, if this gets some of those gamers to remove their blinders and broaden their experiences in gaming, all the better right?


On December 10, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Thinking it through, he really has a point. I remember a few years back, when gameplay videos and stuff were not that popular, I didn’t have played the first BioShock yet, even with some friends telling me the game was awesome, I still had no idea of what it was about, and the classic Big Daddy cover really misguided me at that time.
Infinite’s box art looks great anyway, I don’t think we are to call ourselves a more select group of gamers because we appreciate some fine storytelling and spend meaningful moments with it, to the point of calling a plain illustrative cover of “arguably unimaginative”. This whole “marketing villainy and fanboism” paranoia is what is tearing the gaming community apart. We are all gamers after all, and AAA FPS titles are just as entertaining as they always were.


On December 11, 2012 at 1:10 am

So let me get this straight. Because few college kids hadnt heard of Bioshock, the assessment is “its not widely known by the greater gaming community”? I cant believe it, IGN has officially become the Fox News of the gaming world. Its amazing.

Air Jimma

On December 11, 2012 at 5:05 am

Unless you put Call of Duty on the cover you are going to have a difficult time cracking into the “Frat Boy” market segment.

ThePrion should visit The Priory

On December 11, 2012 at 5:19 am

“This whole “marketing villainy and fanboism” paranoia is what is tearing the gaming community apart.”

Wrong. The attitude that you’ve displayed, that being unquestioningly accepting the publisher’s choice and criticising other members of the community for having an opinion – before they’ve even expressed it, no less – is what’s tearing the gaming community apart.

Games marketing and manufacturing has been dumbed down. There’s literally no getting away from this fact. Characters are redesigned to look like other characters. Gameplay styles are chopped and changed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, screw those who actually knew how to play it previously and enjoyed it for that reason. Controls are made as basic as possible, which is a good thing in principle but ultimately has led to the influx on insipid quick-time events. Promises are made then broken at a moment’s notice, and developers are actually able to convince a large minority or sometimes even a majority of the fanbase that anyone with a memory longer than a week, who actually expected a game they bought to have the features they bought it for, are somehow ‘entitled’ for being lied to. And this will continue as long as people like yourself (though you’re far from the worst offender I’ve seen when it comes to this) continue to arrogantly and insolently deflect any attempts at analysis or recourse from the wider fanbase.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that he’s OUTRIGHT ADMITTED that he’s changed the box art to appeal to a wider/more casual demographic, thereby totally undermining any attempt at artistic endeavour the developers were ultimately going for. It doesn’t help that the art sucks balls, too. Completely uninspired, meaningless design that does nothing to promote the themes of BioShock, which is what it’s supposed to do.

It’s not a conspiracy theory when it’s a known, obvious, and brazen fact. Try harder next time.


On December 11, 2012 at 7:00 am

@ThePrion should visit The Priory

I think I chose my words very poorly. I didn’t mean that marketing villainy and fanboism aren’t real, I meant that there is too much overreaction to it nowadays. People write articles and brag about it, but they only manage to feed the troll. And I don’t recall any arrogant or insolent criticism and offense in my previous post, that is exactly what I’m not in for, and as you got berserk mode on, you just proved my point.

Oh and sorry, I didn’t realized my statement should be a right or wrong answer to your point of view instead of my opinion. Take it easy next time.


On December 11, 2012 at 7:28 am

@ThePrion should visit The Priory

“Gameplay styles are chopped and changed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, screw those who actually knew how to play it previously and enjoyed it for that reason”

Chill dude. I get where you’re coming from, I totally do, and agree with it to some degree. But let’s keep the focus here, it’s the COVER ART of the game we’re talking about. Whoever said anything about it’s gameplay? In fact mr. Phil Hornshaw has explicity expressed that the core of the franchise is preserved in this installment: