['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.]


Ad pages for consumer magazines dropping by 25% in the space of a year! - Print mags closing up not for being unprofitable, but for not being profitable enough! - The industry grasping at straws for ideas, most of which seem to involve that astonishing new "Twitter" thing for some reason!

These, and more, are some of the topics that are not on my mind this week, because nobody told the game industry about this and therefore I have a stack of magazines to write about that's three inches high.

At the top, for some reason, is the latest newsstand copy of Nuts and Volts, a mag I've covered now and again in the past. I picked up this issue not because there's any hilarious Photoshop errors on the cover, but because it covered the RetroGame, a handheld "game system" that's so straightforward from an electronics perspective that a third-grader can put it together.

It's been picked up by tech blogs on an on-and-off basis ever since its inventor produced it in 2007, but making the cover of a nationally-distributed magazine has to be a bit of a coup for it.

I have a tendency (as you've noticed) to buy pretty much any magazine that has video game stuff on the cover. A melding of hobbies that combines modern entertainment with obsolete media, you could say. And speaking of, how 'bout we discuss the 12 other pieces of obsolete game media that crossed my desk over the past two weeks?

Edge May 2009


Cover: Final Fantasy XIII

Kind of a subdued issue of Edge this month, following their massive 200th-issue effort. The FF13 cover is basically the top devs letting them play the demo and then discussing it with them -- a feature that kind of loses his punch considering anyone can play the demo now if they're willing to go through the trouble. Other features, like a bit on the new Dead to Rights and another on Blitz Games' 3DTV technology (again, only news if you didn't catch it in all the GDC coverage), seem ill-suited for the print medium.

Much better, as always, are the profiles, including pieces with Masaya Matsuura, RPG designer Chris Avellone, and Al Lowe talking about the very first Leisure Suit Larry. The reviews are bound to stir up a little controversy, too -- not the 3 they gave to Sonic and the Black Knight, no, but the 9's they gave Little King's Story and Plants vs. Zombies, an (imo) inane PopCap tower-defense game.

There's also another "Region Specific" game-dev profile collection, this one focusing on Canada's Prince Edward Island, a place I hate to admit that I completely forgot existed. My geography isn't what it was back when I was a grade-schooler who thumbed through the World Almanac for fun. It turns out that despite a population of only 140,000, there are five game devs in the province, although one is exclusively a QA house, and two universities there have game design programs. Heavens.

Boos to N'Gai Croal for writing a column that reiterates the stance he'd already laid out online about the Resident Evil 5 trailer's white-against-black imagery, spends a few paragraphs whining about the response, mentions at the very end that he got to speak with producer Jun Takeuchi about the game, then baits us with that as the topic for next month's column. Come on! Just give up the goods! I didn't pay money for a print mag to read what you already said online!

Retro Gamer Issue 62


Cover: Sega Mega Drive

The cover ties in with the Genesis (or Mega Drive, depending on where you are) Ultimate Collection, as you'd expect, and there's a dev interview, as you'd expect (one that includes Ethan Einhorn, current Sega producer and former GameNOW editor). The general Genesis retrospective attached to the interview is quite nice, though, set up as a bunch of small bite-sized columns and interviews with people like David Perry and Trip Hawkins.

There's also making-ofs for Space Invaders (Tomohiro Nishikado is definitely making the rounds in game media lately, this despite his most famous game's 30th birthday being last year), Lucasarts' Full Throttle, and Atari's S.T.U.N. Runner, an underappreciated arcade game.

PC Zone April 2009


Cover: Top 10 shooters

This month's reason to like PC Zone:

"Not only is Ray Muzyka the co-founder and joint-CEO of BioWare -- the world's finest RPG developer -- the man also holds an honest-to-god medical degree. If I'd had a heart attack during our interview, or needed an emergency tracheotomy with a pen, Muzyka MD would've been on hand to save me from the brink of death or stab me with some stationery. On the other hand, if I'd been with some non-qualified numpty, I would've died, probably with biros hastily lodged in all sorts of ineffectual places."

PC Gamer May 2009


Cover: Battlefield games

This is Mr. Steinman's third issue, and the changes keep on coming, including a redone letters spread and the "Eyewitness" section -- sort of a mix of the traditional news and previews departments -- filling up almost half the mag. This section's quite a lot like the best of GI's opening pages, which I consider to be praise because it rocks -- small interviews, small previews, interesting news pieces. Very neat stuff, and it makes the cover feature look pretty pedestrian by comparison.

PC Gamer has always been pretty high-quality, but I think it's spent much of the last few years searching for direction. It's finally beginning to get one, which is great.

Official Xbox Magazine May 2009 (Podcast)


Cover: Lost Planet 2

A pretty straightforward issue, apart from those classic OXM-trademark freeform features. This month we got a piece with military specialists answering humorous game-themed questions like "Do barrels of fuel really explode if you shoot them?" (an idea EGM used back in 2004 or so, I think). Another one, my personal favorite, lists up the crappest game endings of 2009 and offers suggestions for what they could've been.

Nintendo Power May 2009


Cover: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

An interesting juxtaposition here -- a mag with a (presumably) M-rated horror game as its lead story, supported by advertising for Gardening Mama, My Pet Shop, Klonoa, and ocarinas. (And, granted, The Conduit too. But still.)

The cover feature is mostly hardcore text and dev interviews, making it almost seem like something Play would do. The Punch-Out!! feature (which, at 9 pages, is a third larger than Game Informer's "exclusive" piece this month) is much more colorful and exciting.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine May 2009


Cover: Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Almost certainly the best cover of this column, and it's a very stylish feature on the inside as well, alongside similar bits on God of War III and assorted baseball games. (The GOW3 article's black text on red background is a bit straining after a while.)

Game Informer May 2009


Cover: Assassin's Creed II

There's a piece in Connect about the state of video game TV shows, a topic I'm surprised hasn't been tackled more in-depth before now -- it's a pretty sorry scene, after all. Otherwise, I dunno. The cover feature is typical GI target-renders and "the game's gonna have this and this and this" dev quotes, and the Punch-Out!! [not-so-]exclusive has oddly blurry and dark screenshots, as if someone was shooting a large-screen TV with a digital camera.

GamePro May 2009


Cover: UFC 2009

Oh, man, it's a throwback to the good ol' days of GamePro rasslin' covers! At least there's no neon-colored halo over all the fighters this time.

It's a surprisingly neat feature inside, though, and there's an even bigger surprise inside -- a 6-pager about Six Days in Fallujah, the only print mag I've seen cover this so I guess it's exclusive. I can't help but wonder if that woulda made a better cover choice. It would at least spark a little more buzz among gamers than UFC.

Future Specials A Go-Go

ultimategamingpc2009.jpg   ps3ultimatereviewguide.jpg

It's that time in spring, it seems. Build the Ultimate Gaming PC and PlayStation 3 Ultimate Review Guide both deliver what they promise on the cover, with PC Gamer's special being entirely original content and even PTOM's having a few original roundup features spicing up things.

Future has been advertising two other specials -- a second volume of Nintendo-themed posters from NP, and a zombie-themed mag from OXM -- but I haven't seen them in stores yet.

Game Developer April 2009


Cover: Saints Row 2

Aw, who can forget about Game Developer? I can't! This month is the annual salary survey, AKA the annual reminder that I ought to be making far more money than I am. (At least those California types have to shell it all back in taxes and higher living expenses. That's how I justify it in my mind. That, and they can't have ferrets and I can.)

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots and lots of publishers and game companies.]