['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day. This time, he tracks down the elusive PC Zone -- and its grim circulation numbers -- and checks out current issues of publications from GamePro to Nintendo Power and beyond.]
I never miss an issue of Future UK's PC Zone
. Sadly, sometimes PC Zone misses me...and, for that matter, the state of Texas entirely, it seems. I hadn't seen an issue on sale locally for months until a single copy of the Xmas '09 edition (above) popped up at the local Micro Center.
Over in Britain, Future decided as of last year to announce its magazine stable's official ABC-audited circulation figures once a year, as opposed to once every six months like before. The move put Future in line with other game-media outlets, but it also served to hide the fact (for half a year, anyway) that every mag but Edge lost readership
The biggest loser: Sadly, none other than PC Zone -- already the lowest-circ game mag that Future released, it took a 40-percent dive down to 11,357 copies sold per month, on average. Eesh. I think Computer Gaming World had higher circulation in 1987.
And it's really a shame, I think, because the mag's consistently the one that makes me laugh the hardest and most often. It's one thing for editors to attempt
to write a funny game mag -- many try, to some extent -- but it's another to do it well, and so consistently.
It's for that reason alone that I keep spending $15 an issue on this mag, something I often feel a little silly about afterwards. I suppose Future figures that the mag would go belly-up instantly if they removed the pricey DVD from the package. I can't blame them for thinking that way, either, but as their (probably) sole fan in the U.S. Gulf Coast, I will say that I wish it were cheaper. And available a little more consistently.
(The pragmatist in me wants to say 'Why doesn't Future can the print mag if it's a money-loser and have the editors try starting a humorous game blog, like Old Man Murray
or something?' However, I've a feeling that Future's advertising department already has an answer to that question for me, and it wouldn't be a cheery one.)
Regardless, after a false start last week, a great many new mags have hit my mailbox now, and here's what I think of 'em:
Edge March 2010
Cover: Crysis 2
It's almost as if Edge and Game Informer swapped covers this month -- GI (below) has the artistic-looking set piece, and Edge's got the "space marine" with guns a-blazin'. The piece inside is the sort of cover story GI would do at its best, too. It's not about Crysis 2
the game so much as Crytek the company, an outfit trying to reinvent itself as a pioneer on all platforms (not just PC) with this project.
Also worth reading: The interview with Ed Fries, one of the Xbox's founding fathers, whose current play
at a big business venture is...manufacturing 3D figures of people's World of Warcraft
Game Informer March 2010
Cover: L.A. Noire
This cover story was a must-read for me on a purely personal level. Not to sound sycophantic and...well, like a game journalist, but I've always been a fan of L.A. Noire director Brendan McNamara ever since I conducted a nice, long, extended interview with him for GamePro back in 2003, just before The Getaway
hit America. I remember him as a huge "ideas" man, sort of like Molyneux but perhaps without as much of a big mouth, and the feature shows me that the years haven't changed him much -- it's mainly McNamara talking about how L.A. Noire
is where he's really, finally
making his vision come to life, unfettered by hardware restrictions or whatnot.
I'm not sure I'm 100 percent ready to believe him -- he said all the same things about The Getaway
eight years ago, after all -- but the feature's a really fascinating peek into his mind nonetheless.
The rest of the mag is business as usual, with nothing really grabbing me in the Connect section. One exception: a nice two-page look at the legal status of the Duke Nukem franchise
, complete with tons of commentary from a real-life intellectual property attorney.
Nintendo Power March 2010
Cover: Pokemon HeartGold/SoulSilver
My copy of NP was both late and fairly dinged up in the mail. It's also, sadly, bereft of really hot content -- I've the feeling most Pokemon
fans already know most of what's discussed in the cover piece, since the game's been out in Japan since September and is now thoroughly dissected by fansites on the net.
A lot of space is also taken up by a "best games of the decade" piece which is, in my mind, a bit repetitive after the "250 reasons to love Nintendo" blowout in January.
Mark Turmell's always a great interview, though.
Retro Gamer Issue 73
The ultimate hero
RG is put in the delicate position of writing a big cover piece about the Ultimate Play the Game
era of UK developer Rare without having access to Tim or Chris Stamper, the company's founders and main game designers all through those years. It's a nice little piece nonetheless, if nothing new to dyed-in-the-wool retro fans.
Much neater is a four-page chat with 87-year-old Ralph Baer about his invention Simon
, one of the biggest electronic toy fads of the early '80s.
Tips & Tricks Codebook May 2010
Cover: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
T&T continues to rock its little corner of the industry. This issue devotes large amounts of space to longform strategy guides and surprisingly little to code listings -- there's 67 pages of the former and only five of the latter. I think it's a smart move, even if it means T&T can't print that "Over 7,000 Tips!" burst on the cover any longer.
The mag's multipart poster antics continue as well. This issue's packed with part one of a New SMB poster that, when matched with its partner next issue, is claimed to span over five feet across your bedroom wall. Yow!
Game Developer February 2010
I loved the postmortem for Trials HD
in this issue for two reasons: one, I love Trials HD
; two, Finnish game programmers are crazy.
GamePro Spring Special Issue
Now that Future US seems to have wound down its newsstand one-off output (I don't think I've seen any specials from them since early fall), GamePro and its $4.99 seasonal are about all that's left. This issue, sadly, appears to be entirely reprint content -- previews, reviews, and a two-page snippet from BradyGames' guide to Darksiders
. Ho hum. At least the cover's pretty.
[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]