['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.]

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Back in June I wrote about PSE, a U.S. PlayStation magazine that ran for over a decade under assorted names and through all sorts of ups and downs. Recently I was fortunate enough to get some more mail from Mark Androvich, who worked for the mag since 1998 and was its last editor-in-chief. He was very nice to me considering all the nasty things I said about his magazine (though, to be fair, most of PSE's later woes weren't really anything that the editorial department was at fault for), and with his permission, here's a small interview that answers some of the questions I had behind PSE/PSExtreme's business.

Q: PSE getting distributed as part of Prima is, as noted in the article, a supposition. So was it the case that Dimension handled all of its own distribution for its whole history? What sort of distribution was available to the magazine after EB/GameStop fell out of the picture?

MA: Here is my understanding of the Prima deal; I was a freelance writer at the time and wasn't specifically involved, other than writing guides for Prima. Initially, Dimension Publishing created its own strategy guides in competition with both Prima, Brady, Millennium, and whomever else was out there. As a PlayStation-exclusive magazine, we had a good relationship with SCEA and were able to secure strategy-guide rights to many of their first-party franchises. We also had a good relationship with Eidos, and worked on their Tomb Raider guides (among others). So, that's what we could offer Prima. At the same time, Prima had better distribution of their guides, which is what they offered us. I do not believe that Prima ever distributed our magazine to retailers. There was some cross-promotion involved (guides had blow cards [subscription cards] for the magazine IIRC, or vice-versa; SCEA games had advertisements for our guide in the jewelcase, etc.) but that was about it.

For the debut of the PS2, Prima did print our PlayStation 2 "launch guide"--it looks like a Prima Guide with a PSE2 logo cover. I've seen it in three versions--normal, with a Toys R Us exclusive logo on the cover, and with a redesigned cover/interior for Target stores.

I know we had at least 2 distributors over the years; maybe more. I don't know what happened, because I used to be able to find PS Extreme everywhere (book sellers, game specialty stores, and even grocery stores) but then our distribution dwindled to the point that I wouldn't have been able to find it if I wanted to.

Q: As I noted, PSE stopped offering subscriptions for a while before folding. Was it the case that PSE continued publishing until 2006 primarily to fulfill outstanding subscriptions? Were they all fulfilled, or were refunds given out, or?

MA: To the best of my knowledge, the June 2005 issue was the last to contain the subscription blow cards. In April of 2005, we had changed the name of the magazine back to PSE, but the blowcards still said PSE2 on them. That was one reason we stopped including them -- we needed to print new ones. At the same time, advertising revenues were down, most game companies were losing money, and most gaming magazines were in the red. We had long discussions about our future, which included options such as becoming a multi-platform magazine or an online-only resource. It seemed inappropriate to continue soliciting subscriptions during this time, but Dimension cut costs to the point that we were able to continue publishing nonetheless.

I don't think our publisher would have continued publishing PSE for another year merely to fulfill outstanding subscriptions, but if he did, I wouldn't fault him for doing so. If I were the subscriber, I'd want to receive the magazine until the end of my subscription rather than receiving something else, or nothing else. I have no idea if, in fact, they were all fulfilled or if refunds were given out. The only "subscribers" I ever dealt with were the PR people, who immediately called to ask why they didn't receive an issue in May/June.

Q: Do you have any idea of circulation figures throughout the magazine's history?"

MA: Not at the moment...At one point, I saw rough circulation figures, but that was back in 1998 and again in 2000 when we were making the switch from PS Extreme to PSE2. I don't believe we ever had an official circulation audit.


As if I had enough trouble collecting PSExtreme, Androvich also reminded me of Dimension's other magazine projects, which I'm similarly short on in my collection. Q64 I was familiar with, but I forgot all about VooDoo, a PC game/tech mag officially sponsored by 3Dfx during their heyday. My work's never going to be done, I just know it...

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]