Between big reveals at E3, teaser trailers, and television spots, there is a lot that goes into the marketing of a video game. Although lots of shoppers decide what to buy long before walking into a store or heading to Amazon, cover art that grabs the eye is still a valuable piece of marketing. Despite product packaging and art being how consumers spot a game in a crowd of competition, many developers still push out more of the same old thing.
Anyone who takes more than a casual look at the art while walking down an aisle of video games is sure to spot a few recurring trends on almost every cover. Although it’s impossible to reinvent the wheel with every new game or sequel, here are a few of the cliches we’ve seen enough of one lifetime.
Like all good drama, video games are about conflict. It’s no surprise that almost every video game pins one force up against another. Both story and action are driven by confrontation between opposing forces and it makes for some great entertainment. That said, we may have seen more face to face cover showdowns than we can handle.
The heads up cover serves the purpose of introducing the lead character and their opposition, but the head-to-head imagery has been beaten into the ground. The cliché works best with sports games, but when it starts to spread outside of that genre, it because a little too familiar.
Lucky Number Three
Good and bad things like to come in threes and cover cliches are no exception to the rule. The trend of placing three characters on the front of a cover isn’t a new one, but it still gets just as much use as ever. Last year, Destiny was just one of the many offenders, although the choice made some sense given the three Guardian classes.
The upside to showcasing three characters on the cover is to highlight multiple playable characters or suggest that there is a substantial world to explore in the game, but looking like half the other games on the shelf isn’t helping any game stand out from the crowd.
Extreme Close Up
Some developers have enough faith in their protagonist to let nothing but their mug sell the game. This technique is hard to knock, because it does show the incredible amount of faith developers and their marketing teams have in household names like Snake, Tony Hawk, and Lara Croft.
On the other side of the coin, the fact that we are all so familiar with these characters seems like perfect motivation to show us something new on the cover. There’s no doubt that Solid Snake’s face can move plenty of units off the shelf, but we’d love to see something new that these games are bringing to the table showcased on the cover.
Guns to the Sky
Much like explosions in the background, we’d love to blame the guns to the sky trend on Call of Duty, but in reality it’s been around in both game and movie posters since the earliest days of James Bond (and probably even before then). Any game that puts players in control of a gun likes to advertise that mechanic on the cover and what better way than by having the protagonist casually point a firearm into the air?
In order to stand out from the crowd games like Borderlands and Borderlands 2 put a unique spin on the trend and highlight that it’s actually possible to point guns (or fingers) in directions other than straight up. Although everyone wants to look like James Bond, positioning your protagonists on the cover in the same stance is no way to make them memorable.
Back to the Camera
Characters standing in backbreaking position has always been popular in the world of superhero comics, but lately the trend has started to spread over to video game art, as well. Most of these examples aren’t quite defying the laws of anatomy yet, but the classic back to the camera and slightly turning around pose is losing its originality quickly.
The trend started off as a nice alternative to the forward facing ‘gun to the sky’ pose, but over-saturation has made it just as bland. That said, these covers usually show the hero facing down some kind of destruction or obstacle, which can make for a cool introduction to the game’s world.
It’s Not All Bad…
Although the majority of games may stick to the tried and true cover cliches, there are a handful of new games that have really impressed us with unique covers. Games like Tomb Raider showcase an iconic hero, while also introducing some new tools that will be vital to the game. Titanfall relies on a familiar color palette, but avoids many other trends and introduces both the ground solider and the mechs. Super Smash Bros. for Wii U may just jam a dozen characters onto the cover, but it still manages to capture the chaos and fun that fans expect from the franchise.
What is your least favorite video game cover trend? What is your favorite cover from the last year or two? Let us know in the comments.