I believe box art plays an important role in the presentation of a video game. It should reveal the characters and aspects of the game play, but I don’t think it should spell it out for the audience. More recently, box art has become stale and seemingly generic, leaning towards the Hollywood movie posters style. Some games create an amazing piece of artwork for their covers. For example, Ico.
This cover was painted by Fumito Ueda, who is actually the director and lead designer Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. He was inspired by a surrealist painter that went by the name of Giorgio de Chirico, specifically by a painting he made called The Nostalgia of the Infinite. Ueda uses a similar color palette, the yellows and orange colors that contrast with the blue sky. Other De Chirico trademarks that Ueda used are the landscapes that seem unoccupied by human life, the arches, shadows cast at strange angles and the time of day (sundown).
This cover is unique in a sea of game covers that are littered with digitized faces of characters from within the game or Hollywood-isque covers with the hero with a gun. Without spelling it out, this cover conveys things that deal with the game, everything on the cover has a meaning. The ladder is there because it’s an element used a lot in the game, The portrayal of the characters (Ico & Yorda) on the cover effectively signifies the gameplay emphasis on exploration. They are placed in an open space; there is a windmill situated in the background, a large structure in the foreground and the sea in the near distance. The characters appear small, suggesting solitude, being lost and attempting to escape. They’re holding hands, which is an integral part of the game; if Ico lets go of Yorda and strays off, creatures will grab her, thus ending the game.
“If the packaging was designed differently, we think it would have sold more,” he explains. “In fact on the Internet many people have said that the Japanese version was better.”
Here is a collection of artwork by Giorgio de Chirico, at MoMa, a Youtube video of the architecture involved in Ico and the cover artwork minus all the annoying logos.