This year Electronic Arts gave fans the opportunity to vote for the cover athlete on NHL 13. After more than 25 million votes, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers was chosen as the winner and became the cover athlete for the ice hockey game. A similar process by THQ had earlier taken place for UFC Undisputed 3, with Anderson Silva winning out as its cover athlete. It seems that this method of selection is another good way for fans to interact with the game before its launch, as well as create more promotion.
The cover athlete for a sports game is usually a big talking point, whether it be for the likes of FIFA, Madden or Pro Evolution Soccer, it’s always noteworthy on who graces the game cover and whether it makes a big difference to those buying the game. Would a long-term Pro Evolution Soccer fan transfer to the FIFA series because Lionel Messi moved over, as has happened in 2012. Does a player from a rival team that one supports, for example Cristiano Ronaldo on Pro Evolution Soccer 2012, influence the decision to buy that game, or even switch to a different series? Madden 09 saw retired quarterback legend Brett Favre grace the cover in the famous Green Bay Packers uniform. Not long after the game’s launch though he ended his retirement and signed for the New York Jets. Electronic Arts did make an updated uniform cover shot for fans to download and print out if they wanted to do so. A bit of a marketing nightmare though.
It may seem a shallow reason to buy a game or not, but it does fit into the whole branding bracket, with other products such as drinks and clothing lines getting a famous face or team to promote and be associated with it. For video games, the genre and game features, such as characters and environments, play their part in promotion, and for games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, the final rather dull cover artwork had little influence in it shifting millions of copies. The same can potentially be said for a brand new title like Dishonored, with its cover art focusing on the main character, but not dividing opinion like a famous face.
When a famous face is used, it is more likely to persude a more casual player to buy the game. The likes of the previous sporting games mentioned will still sell well, but the cover athlete will potentially help shift those extra copies if a friend or family member decides to pick the game up. It then prolongs the chart life of the game. For the long-term, serious player, the gameplay features and what they’re used to playing will usually be of more importance and win out. Changing isn’t an option – no matter the cover athlete.
Do you always stick with your favourite franchise no matter which athlete promotes it? Or is it of little influence and other factors are more important?