Well, it's summertime once again -- great for barbecuing and replacing air conditioning units, but never very good for US game mags, especially now that the advertising market has bottomed out across the board for dead-tree publications.

Still, that doesn't mean the newsstand can be completely avoided until October. There's always England to the rescue.


Two new Brit-mags on the stands right now caught my attention this week. The first is CVG Presents, a new project that, if I'm not mistaken, marks the first time the Computer & Video Games name has seen print since CVG's original closing in 2004.

This special 178-page history of the Grand Theft Auto series kicks off what's set to be a bimonthly series of CVG Presents mags, each devoted to a single subject much like Future US's recent newsstand-only mags devoted to Halo and Metal Gear Solid.

This mag isn't quite as impressively printed as the specials published on the Edge label between '06 and '07 (lacking the coffee-table qualities of that stuff), but it's still a great piece of work.

Pages of textless art are not what you'll find here -- it's utterly packed with top moments from the games, top pop-culture references, soundtrack retrospectives, reviews from old Future magazines, interviews from old Future magazines (including one with a positively cherubic Dan Houser from 1999), and boundless amounts of trivia from the series' decade-long history. It's huge, clever, and totally worth the $12.


Speaking of things that are $12, the fiftieth issue of Retro Gamer fits the bill nicely, too. To celebrate their 50th cumulative issue, the editors have done the expected thing and turned their regular "making of" spotlight to the early years of the magazine, when it started as a 2004 one-off and managed to survive low sales, nonexistent freelancer wages and the bankruptcy of its original publisher to be the robust monthly it is today.

Between physical issues and the classy DVD set Imagine Publishing sells on their website, I have every issue of Retro Gamer and buy it every month off the newsstand. I frankly thought their first couple years were positively atrocious and a waste of a great opportunity, but since the publisher shift it's been a wholly new magazine, one that treats its beat with more professionalism, dazzle, and pure enthusiasm than any previous English-language effort.

Where they used to just talk about games much like any old schmo with a blog could, now they get seriously in-depth with every feature they publish, interviewing old devs and illustrating each page profusely.

It's consistently wonderful, and the only complaint I have is that there's no point in any American publisher doing a similar magazine -- given current magazine economics, there's simply no way we could do better than this and make it solvent.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also executive editor at PiQ magazine.]