Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
Nintendo Power: Remembering America's Longest-Lasting Game Magazine
View All     RSS
October 22, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 22, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Nintendo Power: Remembering America's Longest-Lasting Game Magazine

December 11, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

A Marketing Vehicle, But An Honest One

GT: It was a marketing vehicle, but when it was going to become a magazine, the mission statement of the magazine was to help consumers to be more satisfied with their game purchases and ensure the longevity of that category. If you remember, at this time, we still had a concern that people would buy games that they didn't enjoy, and if a family made too many poor purchasing decisions, purchasing products that weren't terrific, then they would walk away from being involved with the NES. The magazine was a component of marketing, but in a customer service way.

HP: I set up and ran the internal evaluation system. Nintendo in Japan was doing something like that to begin with, but we built on that. Initially, it was just myself and another two guys who looked at every single game that was being released in Japan, and we'd all rate them on a standardized form. Then I expanded that to include game counselors, and then expanded it even larger, and brought in kids to fill in forms and say what they liked about different games.

That information is what fed the Power Meter. That wasn't just marketing stuff. The Power Meter was coming directly from that data from people who were playing the games.

GT: Based on that game's ratings, it would help NoA to determine how strong the game was going to be and the way we could support a licensee or development team that had come up with a fantastic game. One of the ways we could do that would be to give them larger coverage in Nintendo Power.

Sometimes they would purchase big licenses or put a lot of energy into a game that just doesn't work out to be very fun or balanced. Those games did not get as much coverage, even if the licensee begged or pleaded. [laughs] The answer was still no. It was considered quite a coup to have your game featured on the cover and to get major editorial coverage.

HP: To this day, my integrity is rock-solid on that. At the time, the hit games were such clear leaders over the other ones, and it was borne out by all the game evaluation data that we got.

We were fed by the scores that were coming out of the game evaluation. We were talking about huge games like Ninja Gaiden and Super Mario and Zelda and Castlevania. They were huge hits.

Occasionally, we'd get a lull where there wasn't a super hit game coming out. A "super hit game" scores above a 32 on a 40 point scale. If there was a game that was a 30 and there was nothing else, that would get the cover, because it was the best game for that period.

Click for larger version.

One of the largest magazines in America…maybe

GT: We sent out 3.2 million [complimentary copies of the first issue], that's how big the database grew from the 600,000 to when the decision was made fairly early 1987.

Our database grew during the time we were pursuing this to more than 10 million. We had a huge direct-response database, and we protected it very closely. We never sold it, and never let the mailing tapes out. For a while, we even directly mailed the magazine in-house and set up a mailing shop because we valued the assets of the list.

When it hit 1.3 million -- and we talked about how fast it grew -- I was looking at what magazines were the biggest magazines in the country, and in fact the biggest one was a senior's magazine. Like an AARP magazine or something. But that's not fair because it's just something you get. It's like AAA Magazine. You get it when you're a AAA person.

I'm really not sure [where Nintendo Power placed, in terms of circulation], but it certainly was up there. Because Nintendo Power didn't accept advertising, we weren't audited, and in order to be formally ranked -- like being a public company or something -- you needed to be audited by one of those companies that keeps track and keeps people honest for ad rates.

Looking Back

HP: It's a lifetime of wonderful memories, working on that thing with Gail and the folks at Work House and at Nintendo and the licensees. It was so much fun. The guys would come in and you'd say you were going to do a feature on them and they just couldn't wait to hop in the airplane and get there and share every possible goodness that they could think of about the game with you, to make sure you get it in the magazine. Without even thinking about it specifically, I smile, and then I think of specifics and smack my forehead with embarrassment or joy or frustration or whatever. It was just all-around great times.

GT: Not to say at the time we thought we were all that, but you know, we just kept going. I just think that now, the sophistication of design and layout is so much easier in a way, and the ability to adjust things and make them look better if you don't like something is...but I don't think so, really. Right now, when I look at it, it doesn't look very organic, and it looks a little unpolished compared to what you might imagine someone would do today.

But kids loved it. They really warmed to it. It felt right.

Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

Related Jobs

Nix Hydra
Nix Hydra — Los Angeles, California, United States

Art Director
Avalanche Studios
Avalanche Studios — New York, New York, United States

UI Programmer
University of Texas at Dallas
University of Texas at Dallas — Richardson, Texas, United States

Assistant/Associate Prof of Game Studies
Avalanche Studios
Avalanche Studios — New York, New York, United States

UI Artist/Designer


Jacob Alvarez
profile image
Fare the well Nintendo Power. The publication may be gone, but the memory remains.

Lex Allen
profile image
So, I'm really curious about why they stopped. Was that somewhere in the article?

I used to write letters to them when I was a kid. I used to draw characters on the envelopes too, but they never published them sadly.

Rebecca Richards
profile image
Nintendo declined to renew their licensing agreement with Future Publishing, who had been handling the magazine for them since 2007. They have not said why, and they are not publishing it in-house either.

I think it's the lack of a "why" that makes it suck the most.

Andrew Chen
profile image
The "why" is usually due to declining profitability, if not outright losing money.
As we all know, game magazines are not what they were in their hey-day. The internet has rendered the subscriber-ship of most untenable, thus even once-mighty EGM went out of print.
As a magazine that serves an even more smaller, specific customer base...yeah Nintendo Power's days were probably numbered long ago. Kudos to Future for giving it a go.

Lex Allen
profile image
I'm sure that it was for financial reasons as well, but I would of liked to hear how bad it was.

Chris OKeefe
profile image
I remember as a kid getting my hands on these magazines and feeling like it was christmas. We didn't have a lot of money to spend on things like games or computers. What we did have was an NES, and later an SNES, and we mostly only got games for christmas. These magazines were very much a portal into the other worlds that were waiting to be explored, and when something really grabbed me I'd bug the parents to take me to the local rental shop and let me rent it. Back when renting games was still a big thing.

It's likely I never would have become as interested in the industry as I am today if not for this magazine. So thanks for that.

Derek Manning
profile image
This was my first gaming magazine, I remember getting issue number one. With my initial subscription we got a free copy of Dragon Warrior 1 for the NES as well. So many good memories of this magazine. It will be missed.

Raymond Grier
profile image
With the Dragon Warrior game I got a small strategy guide and a map, that was so cool.

Muir Freeland
profile image
I love the image of people cutting out map squares and pasting them on a giant board. It sounds like a nightmare in the best way possible.

Raymond Grier
profile image
I had always assumed they used a camera to photograph the screen.

Mike Kasprzak
profile image
Grabbed my copy of the final issue.

Growing up, I first subscribed about a year after it started. Without a doubt, Nintendo Power played a pivotal role in me getting involved in games professionally. It became a goal of mine to develop games for Nintendo systems, and a decade ago, I did get to work on several licensed games for the various GameBoy family of devices (GB, GBC, GBA). So, mission accomplished.

I don't do much Nintendo stuff anymore (Indie), but I will always respect Nintendo and Nintendo Power magazine. Thanks for memories.

Keith Thomson
profile image
I was only subscribed to Nintendo Power for a couple of years myself, but I did enjoy the magazine while I had it. The game that they sent me though was especially important, as it set the course for most of my console gaming from there forward. (Dragon Quest 1.)

I liked their guides enough that I actually named a cat after one of the characters in a Final Fantasy screenshot... (I had no idea that "Gail" was an actual person at Nintendo Power at the time.)

Of course, the magazine eventually drifted over to mostly covering SNES titles, and I drifted over to PC gaming instead when my parents decided not to buy consoles anymore, so I ended up dropping it. When I came back to console gaming in the late 90's, Nintendo just wasn't bringing over the kind of games I enjoyed anymore. At this point I play maybe 5-10% of the time on nintendo platforms, and about 70% on Sony platforms, so I never resubscribed.

Youn Lee
profile image
1993~1995 about 3 years I read this magazine, which was one of the most beautiful memories in my childhood. Getting a newest issue of this, was like buying a new game monthly. Now I live in Korea, as a 26 years old grown up, and uncomfortable of using English. I will always miss you.

Alexander Brandon
profile image
This is an incredibly well done write up. I loved this magazine along with many others and this trip down memory lane is sincerely appreciated. I always did wonder how they did screenshots and maps! That was REAL publishing and design. Nowdays anyone can do it with the tools we have, but not many do it well. Hats off to Howard, Gail and everyone involved for a great magazine that was the only avenue of information about these games.

Benjamin Smith
profile image
Wow this is truly sad...This magazine is why I went to school for Video Game Art. I would sit up hours looking at the maps and pictures trying to draw them on Mario Paint.

David Boudreau
profile image
Yeah it was always a great day when my copy of the Nintendo Fun Club Newsletter finally arrived. I was very loyal, however one of you people screwed up when the first issue of Nintendo Power came out- I remember waiting and WAITING that summer after all the hype, and hearing how my friends got their copy but mine never got sent out until very late, and I was emotionally scarred for life!! But I can't stay too mad at you, I still remember things like that Zelda map, great stuff.

Brenden Sewell
profile image
That magazine was with me as a regular friend of sorts for most of my developing years. I still have some 150 odd issues sitting around in my old house somewhere.

Michael Ruud
profile image
Nintendo Power was clearly a labor of love, and while it's with a heavy heart that its time has come to a close you've done good on giving the people behind its genesis the treatment they deserve with this article. And that final issue. It's such an appropriate bookend to the journey they've taken thus far. The cover, the fact that it features a review for a new Mario game on the dawn of the release of a new console, the final nester comic, the final page... everything about it is so heartfelt and tragic I dare call it poetic.

Thanks for the memories, Nintendo.

Rob Gomes
profile image
I believe I was subscribed from Issue #1 through around Issue #100 or so. It was a pretty long run.

Some of the big game-centric strategy guide issues were tremendously well done. The Final Fantasy one is the one that sticks out for me, but I know there were strategy guides for 3 other games as well.

The Dragon Warrior offer I certainly remember as well. Renew your subscription and get a new game, strategy guide and other goodies? Sure! Sign me up! That's hard to argue when you're under the age of 10 (especially to my parents).

The issues I remember most however, were Issue #8 (the DuckTales issue) and #10 (the Batman issue) for one reason, which is depicted in one of the above photos: River City Ransom. One of the unsung heroes of the NES, arguably my favorite game of all time, and one I've for which not seen a comparable title since.

Josh Foreman
profile image
So sad... Here's my moment of glory where I got a full page in the letters section...