I joined the magazine in September 2004. Just a scant few months before that, there had been an editor-in-chief, a managing editor, a features editor, and an assistant editor. There was an on-site group of people to support magazine production, an in- house sales staff, and much more.
In the interest of retaining profitability for the magazine, the parent company took these positions and cut them or merged them into other departments. Most of the additional work got pushed on the editors. We became responsible for final magazine production, which there had previously been an entire department of five people for. We became the direct line to sales, instead of having an ad production person in between. We started doing our own layout.
Whereas before, we were just taking care of the words and occasionally helping with image sourcing, we were now in charge of almost every aspect of production. The increasing workload made us editors increasingly frazzled, and it became harder and harder to see the long view with the magazine.
We were scrambling to get a single issue out. What's more, we couldn't afford to hire professionals much of the time, so we would hire amateurs or neophytes and train them. This put a lot of strain on the senior staff (read: me) as we got everyone up to speed.
When you consider the fact that none of our authors were professional writers (they're all game developers, many of whom don't claim English as a first language), a lot of these articles needed a lot of massaging, multiple rewrites, and hardcore copyedits. This became harder and harder to get right as we had to do more and more things that weren't editing.
Streamlining our production process eventually got this to a stable state, but it was never an easy job. In the end, we were able to make a good magazine with a skeleton crew, but just making a good magazine wasn't enough to keep up with the times.
Who will mourn our passing? This is a strong admission here, but we never really, truly knew who our audience was. As a print publication, all we had to go on were the few emails we got, and our interactions with developers at trade shows. We never knew for sure if we were serving our audience, because our audience kept changing.
Our surveys showed our audience included a lot of programmers, so we tried to accommodate them -- but we also wanted to serve every aspect of the community. Case in point: Only two percent of surveyed readers called themselves audio professionals. And yet we maintained an audio column until the very end, because we believe audio is an absolutely vital part of game development.
We got a lot of flak from programmers for not having articles that were innovative enough. But we'd ask them what sorts of things they'd like to see, and they'd grow silent. "How about you write something you'd like to see," we'd ask -- but nobody was falling over themselves to offer solutions, only criticisms.
We had to try to predict what might be important, asking our advisers and peers for input. We certainly weren't perfect, and I'll be the first to admit there were some issues that were basically duds. But we had no real hard data to go on; your average Gamasutra article got more feedback than we would on an entire issue.
A number of people who said to me they would miss the magazine when they found out about its closure also admitted they got it for free and threw it away every month. Who was our audience, really? Will they miss us? Will you?
I will miss the magazine. All of us editors (and former editors) will. We did our best to try to help the industry we love, by providing a resource, and a venue for the various voices of our craft. We wanted to help you make better games, and I can only hope we had some small impact in our two decades of work. I honestly thought we might be the last game magazine left alive after all the others fell, because we were profi table, and couldn't slim down any further. But a small profit sometimes just isn't worth the time spent working on GDC and the company's other endeavors.
Thanks to all the editors, all the contributors, all the copyeditors, all the advisers, and all those who ever wrote to us, or spoke to us about the things we were doing. For me, at least, that was what kept me doing this. The fact that I knew someone out there, somewhere, was reading. Maybe, just maybe, they took something away from our words.
[You can get the entire final issue of Game Developer magazine as a .PDF here - and watch for a full archive available on GDC Vault in the near future.]