Naughty Dog Discuss Ellie’s Position On “The Last Of Us” Boxart

Speaking to VG247, Naughty Dog have commented on The Last Of Us’ boxart, and the decision to keep one half of the duo Ellie at the front of the artwork, against the usual path of least resistance normally seen in games, especially ones from this genre.

After the issues with BioShock Infinite’s art recently, which was specifically designed to appeal to – Ken Levine’s word – Fratboys – there were fears that other games would follow suit. Not The Last Of Us, though, thankfully, as the team stand stoic despite apparent pressure.

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“I feel like they don’t put women on the covers because they’re afraid that it won’t sell,” said Ashley Johnson. “It’s all gamers really know – and I don’t want to be sexist by any means – but I get the feeling, generally, that they think game’s won’t sell as well with a woman on the cover, compared to some badass dude on the front.”

“I agree with what Ashley said,” addded creative director Neil Druckmann. “I believe there’s a misconception that if you put a girl or a woman on the cover, the game will sell less. I know I’ve been in discussions where we’ve been asked to push Ellie to the back and everyone at Naughty Dog just flat-out refused.”

The Last Of Us is due out next May.

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26 Comments

  1. Has anyone in the history of gaming ever bought – or not bought – a game, based purely on it’s cover art?

    • A few years ago, before I really started following review sites, I based all my gaming purchases on the box art – after all, how else was I to know what the game was about? That said, I’ve never looked at a game and thought “why is there a woman on the front?! PASS!”, lol.

    • If people have, I doubt they would admit it.

      What I would say is I bet there is some (used in the loosest sense possible) truth behind these claims though in a subconcious manner. Hard to prove either way but people are so easily swayed by advertising without knowing it, that you could just never rule it out.

    • A good question, however I think it will be at subconcious level rather than reasoned self debate.
      eg Resistance 3 cover Art was poor as fuck and if I didnt already know Resistance and what it was about then maybe my eyes would have flicked past looking at the shelf and gone and bought something else.

    • It’s a common practise amongst those who don’t follow gaming sites and such.

    • I will go on record as saying I have looked at cover art and dismissed a game out of hand because of it. Granted it was a long time ago when it was not possible to be as well informed about games as it is today.

      If you are not actively seeking out game reviews and previews, the box art may be your first (and possibly only) contact with a game. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but the reason that is a saying is because people do.

    • The quality of the box art gives a pretty good clue about the artistic integrity of the studio. If the cover art is shite, it might say something about what else has been compromised in the game itself.

      Besides, I’m sure there are plenty of film enthusiasts who prefer buying a specific US/UK/French edition of a Blu-ray because the artwork of the edition available locally plainly sucks. I know it has occasionally been the case for games as well.

  2. i’m sure i read an article the other day about how many games there were that featured female leads, a very small number compared to the number of games with male leads, and how they’re not usually marketed as strongly and games with male leads, except for certain high profile games like the Tomb Raider series.
    that could be a reason why they sell less.

    i mean look at all the games where you get to create your own character and choose their gender, they’re almost exclusively marketed with the male version.

    apart from that femshep thing Bioware did for ME3, which wasn’t actually quite as big a deal as they made it sound, we got about ten seconds of the prerendered femshep, and when people chose their favourite version on facebook they decided the people were wrong because they couldn’t have a blonde Shepard.

    anyway, good on ND, and at least we know they haven’t just put the game’s female character on the cover just for sex appeal.

  3. I doubt it would have much effect on such a game where the core demographics are concerned. Gamers will know what Last of Us is and either buy it or not.

    I agree that where the wider audiences are concerned that there may be some marketing controversy. Personally I would say that it depends of how the image is shot. In this case it clearly makes sense. It follows the the narrative plot of the game where Ellie is focused upon; our perspective of what the world in the narrative is, and what it was, are crucial from Ellie’s point of view (basing this on the implied narrative from trailers of course). I rather tend to think that it can play on voyeuristic elements as well. A very skilfully created pack-shot.

    • I still think (and have zero proof to back it up) that the majority of people that will end up getting this will know absolutely nothing about the game. They won’t frequent sites like this and will probably base their purchase on advertising, chart position, friends recommendations and finally ….. boxart.

      • BTW im not saying that means they won’t buy it due to a girl gracing the cover. Just commenting on your first paragraph.

      • Well I did state the demographics. I meant that hardcore gamers will know what the game is about because of trailers, articles and this site lol.

        Issues of photo representation are only significant in relation to making sales, as opposed to gamers who I would pre-suppose as having already made their mind up on the game and so the sales are decided. Making sales is therefore only relevant to (I believe) the wider unacquainted audiences.

      • *therefore packshots are only relevant to the wider unacquainted audiences.

      • Maybe I’m missing the point. It’s been a long day. But that was what I was trying to say. I think you are wrong (and that’s not a go, just can’t be arsed wording it better) in thinking that the core demographic is us, the ones in the know.

        I could be well wrong about that but I still think core demographic is gamers that love, play and buy but do next to no research whatsoever.

        Could be well wide of the mark but I guess it’s a hard stat to prove either way.

      • No worries mate. You are indeed putting forward a good point that more casual gamers are included in the demographics of a game.

        My initial thoughts were that Hardcore gamers won’t be affected by the pack-shot. The casual gamers I think will be; only because of the very reason you put forward that casual gamers will not know next to nothing about the game and take it at face value.

        I wouldn’t worry about you ‘having a long day’, rather I need to go to bed and can’t because of work. I was pretty much wrong because casual gamers are the ones in the demographics for marketing, not hardcore gamers. What i should have said is exactly that, except that hardcore gamers won’t be bothered because we know the games… I’m tired lol. Interesting discussion even if I was misguided.

    • The majority of purchasers will not be following the likes of TSA in the way we might. It’s a bit sad but is also the way it is. People will walk into the likes of Tesco, see a box-shot and think “wow” or “um” or “ugh” and then turn it over and have a read depending on how the front cover went. It’s not true for everyone but we definitely follow a series of events most times.

      Not contrasting with your reply, I think, but wanted to chip in a bit. :-)

  4. I’m more likely to spot the last of us because the cover doesn’t look like everything else.

    It’s generic FPS covers that put me off buying a game. Just makes me think there’s a lack of originality and that the game will probably reflect that

    • “Hey, I’m a soldier with a grenade belt and a gun with no facial features. Buy me.”

  5. I think it’s great that they stuck to their cover. Ellie is a core character and it would be misleading if she wasn’t on the cover.
    While I do enjoy nice cover art, it doesn’t really affect my purchase behaviour. Final Fantasy XIII (XIII-2 and XIII-3) featured (or will feature) female protagonists and even displayed them on the cover. If anything, I’d be more inclined to purchase a game with a girl on the cover (eeoooo!). :P

  6. I am glad they have decided to not go with the usual bloke with a gun on the cover as to me, that implies the game will be generic due to how many generic games have used that on their covers. From the thumbnail and i’m assuming that is the boxart instead of a random picture of the last of us, it says a lot about TLOU. If a publisher believes that having a bloke with a gun on the front of the game will result in lots of sales, then that doesn’t show much confidence in the game.

    Imagine if ND had just shown drake with a gun on the front cover of every UC game, it would have still sold well but it would be a generic cover but instead they took a major event from the game and slapped it on the front cover, usually with Drake hanging off it or in it. If you want your game to sell, have the box art represent what the game is about.

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