Cover art for the upcoming Dragon Age Inquisition features a fully armored character as viewed from behind. The gender of this character is not telegraphed because of this artistic choice. The original game and expansion pack, Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, also featured a fully armored gender neutral character. The second main game, Dragon Age II, had a cover that showed a male Hawke (protagonist).
Cover art that displays gender neutral characters seems to be logical in games where you can create either a female or male character. The cover art is the first impression that players get of a game. For good or bad, they will make assumptions based on that image.
While it is true that the text on the back of the box can clarify character creation options, it sometimes fails to do so. For instance, in another BioWare game (Mass Effect) the cover shows a male Shepard. The back of the box states: “As Commander Shepard, you lead an elite squad on a heroic, action-packed adventure throughout the galaxy. Discover the imminent danger from an ancient threat and battle the traitorous Saren and his deadly army to save civilization. The fate of all life depends on your actions!” A bullet point states: “Customize your character and embark in an immersive, open-ended storyline” Customizable does not always mean gender options. Nowhere on this box is it evident that Commander Shepard could be a female character. From the box art to the text, one could easily assume that Shepard is only ever male. A gender neutral cover would not have made this customization option explicit, but it could prevent the initial impression of the game as being only male protagonists.
I am glad to see that BioWare is going back to the gender neutral covers (at least for this game). I hope that this is a trend in gaming. But, I also want the text on the back of the box telling players that customization also included gender options. This is a selling point, please make it more visible.