The wonderful lack of consistency with covers in gaming

We take a look at some specifics and challenges of building the ultimate games database and the API to rule them all! It’s all about gaming: No Games Left Behind!


Ha… how I envy the movie and music industries. Album covers? Pretty much universally square through the ages, be it CDs or Vinyls. Cinema posters? While they’ve evolved and dimensions vary from country to country they still pretty much fit the classic ‘poster’ format.

A basic google search for ‘movie poster’ gets you nice neat sets of posters by default. Nice!

Meanwhile in gaming…

It’s a wonderful mix of format and ratios without any rules. Less nice.

Of course, it’s a silly mention considering the ever changing formats in gaming, but it nonetheless proves a bit problematic when designing a database for the modern age, desktop or mobile… it looks like a mess.

With every game page comes a cover, which is also the first thing that captures your eye. Since we’re working on a redesign for IGDB, this ended up being a big concern. It makes displaying games in a grid (lists features for example), harder to work with.

Playnite is a very cool game library manager project making use of our API, which highlights cover disparities.

So… what?

To simply put it; there is no way of unifying it all unless ‘cheating’ by remaking formatted covers, a neat 3:4 ratio is quite common in many websites for example, but while it is probably okay to turn a Steam header into a poster, it gets more complicated for mobile games that often only rely on a phone icon or very old retro games where good assets are hard to come by, yet alone the actual original cover. Then there’s also the slight issue of volume, having well over 100K game pages to go through…

There is of course the option of forgoing covers altogether to rely on game screenshots which is another popular option for gaming sites, but that isn’t an option when being a database with the goal of documenting games. 😉

Just store more data!

The lack of consistency in display is irksome but not a problem. What is, however, is documenting varying covers for multi-platform and regional releases. Just like with the cinema industry, game box art can change drastically from region to region and depending on platforms they will also change format. Tetris for example has a release recorded onto 17 different platforms 😕

Alongside a wacky title, the Japanese version of Oddworld: Abe’s Escape also got a drastically different cover.

The solution here may lie in increasing the stored data and cover ALL the format and regional box arts available. Custom covers coupled with clever algorithm cropping could help unify game covers. Covers as a whole would still differ from system to system, but maybe that is just a quirk for gaming to be accepted ;) in any case more data would certainly offer more options!

IGDB is planning on adding multiple cover integration (as well as back covers, manuals etc...). Covers will, of course, make their way to the API and will be available in the coming year.


If you want to keep track of how IGDB is evolving and share your thoughts and suggestions, Discord is a good place to grab us for a chat! If not feel free to shoot us an email!