My latest internship at a independent game studio has been really amazing and I’ve gotten a lot of experience and knowledge of the industry. Perhaps however the most disappointing aspect of being exposed to the industry I cherish is discovering many of the sad truths that plague it. Just being in the industry has caused me to think about decision I make myself when deciding which game to purchase and ask my younger relatives on their choice when they choose a Nintendo DS game for me to buy for them. As a recent example, I had offered to buy my younger cousin Scribblenauts for his DS. With plenty of glowing reviews and my own personal experience of loving the game, I thought both would be enough to sway him into choosing the game. Instead however he had chosen some game that had a ninja on the cover because ninjas are cool. Now I know that a 10 year old doesn’t represent the general gamer purchasing attitude however I would argue that anyone above 16 playing a DS most likely has a R4 card, and therefore the majority of DS games are likely bought by little kids who have yet the learned of using R4 cards.
With this in mind, it was pretty disappointing learning that good games don’t move copies, but rather good box art sells games.
Spending 2-3 years on a game (or wost 10 years), the worst possible thought that can emerge is the thought of the game you’ve toiled and sweat over not selling enough or having positive reception. This concept of box art selling games rather than the game play itself is really disheartening on both fronts of me working in the game industry and as an actual gamer. From the game industry perspective it’s disappointing because one tiny slip up of capturing you’re audience through your box art you risk having the game you’ve worked on collecting dust. On top of that it really takes out some of the magic of pouring time into great game designs when ultimately it might sell simply because you have a kick ass box art.
I guess I’m really just reiterating over a known philosophy of not to judge a book by it’s cover, however I doubt few practice what they preach. I may for instance not judge a game by it’s box art, however I judge them by other’s reviews. If someone told me a terrible review of a game, I am less likely to go out and try it for myself.
Maybe if I ever get around to making a DSi game, I’ll throw a ton of puppies on the box art to guarantee sales and hope to capture the rest of the audience with the amazing gameplay itself.