Kotaku has an incredibly interesting interview with a graphic artist discussing how crappy box art for video games are in the United States.
He laments how cover art for movies and books can be much more interpretive and abstract than the default "Hero + Logo = Box art" formula. And I agree with him; video game covers are pretty bad.
But I disagree with his assertion that movie covers are any better. The VAST majority of DVD covers and movie posters are the exact same thing. I didn't use his fomula, but I referred to them as facecovers. Pick up any DVD at Wal-Mart, or go to Amazon, go to the movie section and bring up a big-ass list of DVD's. It's all a bunch of faces. Hell, some are nothing but a giant face.
The only movies that break the mold are the special editions. The ones designed to look a little special. Take, for example, the recent release of Inglorious Basterds...
It's a well-designed cover, but it's just an exercise in wedging as many faces into it as possible. They did a good job of it, but, man. So, now, take the movie's two-disc special edition.
It's amazing! It's as though the box designers are totally aware that the default design looks like the default design, and they exploit that to make the special edition cover look better.
I suppose then, if that's the case, they're brilliant. Do something for so long it looks like shit, then sell the ones that don't look like shit for more money because people want it. I like this explanation better than the interviewee's, where they simply recognize that hard-core fans are more forgiving of odd images. I think that they're just more critical of crappy covers.
Judging The Covers Of Games, And How To Make Them Better (Kotaku.com)