Hey, that's not how I remember it! Did you know that four Wing Commander games had significantly different box covers in Europe? While the original boxes were designed by Origin, Electronic Arts had regional marketing departments which would then adapt and change designs when they believed it would better suit a different audience. Many wingnuts don't know that multiple boxes exist... so here's a quick visual guide!
For Wing Commander IV, Origin went with a very distinctive box intended to catch eyes at retail. It is larger than usual, red and features markings that suggest it may be an in-lore artifact. When the slipcover is removed, the small key art is replaced by a simple Black Lance symbol. In Europe, Electronic Arts' local publishing arm opted to be much more conservative, developing a traditional black game box that is very much patterned after what was used for Wing Commander III.
The Darkening, released the next year, is the reverse: "Origin UK" (later Warthog) developed a surreal advertising campaign with a distinctive 'eye' box. That was apparently considered a little too 'weird' for American audiences, and a more traditional space painting was commissioned for the US release.
The Privateer speech pack had a makeover for its European release. The reason for the change is clear, as the changed screenshots are much more diverse and exciting in the second version... the only problem is that most of them are parts of the game that do NOT have speech added (remember, full speech didn't happen until the CD-ROM release... the speech pack adds only in-flight dialog. Interestingly, to meet the challenge of how to 'picture' speech, both versions of the expansion exclusively use screenshots where the pack is NOT installed!)
Finally, Righteous Fire had a cool, distinct piece of artwork for the original release that displays the surplus Salthi that figure heavily into the plot. Europe ended up with a far less interesting version: the original Privateer art with a new set of titles. Is this laziness? No, it's branding: EA thought it very important to keep the 'Wing Commander' of the original game in the UK, France and Germany.
Did your region have an 'uncommon' Wing Commander box? Let us know on the forums and we'll feature it in a future article!