August 24, 2009 12:00 AM |
['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.]
Something occurred to me about Future's upcoming World of Warcraft: The Magazine after I wrote a bit about it a few days ago. There's already a mag like it out there -- and it seems to be going remarkably well
As a commenter pointed out, E-ON has been covering EVE Online for a while now in much the same way what Future's new mag will take on WOW. I have never seen a physical issue of this UK-based mag -- the only reason I remember it at all is because the first issue used to go for big bucks on eBay before it was reprinted -- so I'd like to hear from someone who has. The ad copy, anyway, seems to portray it as extremely detailed and valuable to current EVE players, as well as rather pretty to look at.
The interesting thing to me, and maybe an encouraging sign for Future, is that E-ON costs $5 more per issue than WOW:TM, has over a third fewer pages per installment than what Future's promising with WOW:TM, and covers a game with a much smaller fanbase than WOW, yet seems to have had no problem staying in business since 2005. It goes back to the point I made in my previous piece: If Future can keep quality high and overhead low (and being subscriber only goes a long way towards that second goal), then WOW:TM could be an extremely profitable venture for them.
Hopefully, at the very least, it'll publish more than three issues, which is all the wonderfully written yet critically unlucky MASSIVE Magazine managed before its publisher went out of business in 2007.
That said, enough speculation on the future. There are magazines on my desk right now that are begging for attention, their cover subjects staring right at me in that annoying way they do. Here's Example #1, in fact:
Game Informer September 2009
Cover: The Beatles: Rock Band (2 covers)
It never fails -- whenever a game mag does a split cover, I always get the ugliest option in the mail. The other B:RB cover is totally brilliant, but this one is way too "uncanny valley" for my tastes. (I should stop whining, though, because I always take GI to task for putting bald space marines on the cover and the early-era Beatles are the exact opposite of bald space marines.)
Andy McNamara mentions here that GI is getting both a print and online redesign in time for the Nov. '09 issue. McNamara emphasizes in the opening letter that the new website is "one of the biggest Game Informer projects I have ever worked on," but doesn't talk nearly as much about what may be waiting in print. He says they'll "fix the small fonts in our sidebars," but I'm hoping he revitalizes the preview/review sections a fair bit more than that, because they (along with upfront to some extent) are getting remarkably text-heavy and a bit same-y to the eye.
Regardless, content-wise, this is a wonderful issue and the most enjoyable of the year so far. The Beatles cover story is a bit disorganized -- the theme of it is essentially "Hi, I'm Matt Miller and check out my awesome trip to Abbey Road! Here are some pics of me hangin' in the studio with Harmonix!!" -- but it is packed with information and has quotes from everyone you can name who played a role in making this game a reality. Connect has a bit on Metacritic which is ground that's been covered before, but is still worth reading for the points it makes and indirect confrontation painted between site co-founder Mark Doyle and Glen Schofield, executive producer on 88-rated Dead Space.
There's also an interview with Howard Phillips, which is one of the first I've seen in approximately ever. He's looking good. Back when I was a hot video game journalist and had good reason to, I bothered Microsoft all the time for access to him, but got nowhere. Now he's with Chair Entertainment and I guess a bit easier to access, and his interview is very neat. I'm sure, though, that retro-nuts would want to hear more about his Nintendo Power days and current-game-nuts would want to hear his take on the Shadow Complex Card-troversy, now that the topic's been flaring up on the weblogs.
By the way -- this is the second GI after Modern Warfare 2 to feature an exclusive cover and then print a GameStop-sponsored ad for the cover game later on in the mag.
Retro Gamer Issue 67
The cover is fibbing a little bit -- they don't really talk to the creator of Bomberman. They did find Kazuhiko Nonaka, though, who's sort of the IGA of the Bomberman series -- he didn't invent the gameplay, but he was the main dude behind the PC Engine Bomberman, the installment that really cemented the series' place in history. The cover feature's complimented by the second half of a Hudson history, showing exactly how far up, and down, and up, and down this company's been during its time.
There's also a new department, Coin-op Capers, which takes a single arcade game (in this case Operation Wolf) and completely breaks it down, from history to hardware to external stickers to ports to strategy. They talk to the guys who ported it to the C64, a guy who completely restored a machine, and one of the Twin Galaxies record holders. It is brill, and seems to replace Retroinspection, the column where they tore down the history of a home console or computer -- I guess they're letting that run dormant a bit for recharging.
PC Gamer October 2009
Cover: Star Trek Online (4 covers)
Too many split covers arrgh! There isn't much I personally connected with in this issue, but between the cover, the indie-game-dev roundtable and the lovingly long review of The Secret of Monkey Island, I've again reaffirmed my conviction that PC Gamer is one of those few game mags that really designs itself to be a great print product, not just a decent bit of game media.
Two complaints: There's a huge poster stuck right in the middle of a really interesting (and funny) spread about Dragon Age: Origins' toolset, and the indie feature has lots of art from Braid but neither talks to Jonathan Blow nor discusses his game much.
PlayStation: The Official Magazine October 2009
Cover: Avatar: The Game
It's going to take a lot of convincing to have me believe that a movie tie-in game is ever gonna be worth any more than a half-hearted rental, but the feature is interesting nonetheless -- part of it's the game, of course, but much of it is about the rather unique challenges the Ubisoft dev team faces, working with James Cameron and all the demands that entails. (Cameron himself is interviewed, too, and sounds appropriately enthusiastic.)
Not that it's directly game-related, but the interview with Brendon Small is also the first I've ever seen. I don't know if he's reclusive or I haven't looked hard enough (definitely the latter judging by Google), but he's an interesting guy.
Tips & Tricks Video Game Codebook September/October 2009
T&T's website had been moribund for a while, but take a look at it now -- it looks remarkably tidy and neat, it sells back issues (sort of -- you still have to snail-mail or phone in orders), and it even has a couple of downloadable pencil puzzles. Not exactly a challenge to GameFAQs, no, but it's not trying to mount one in the first place.
The mag itself is the usual sort of T&T groove, the only real surprise the history of Punch-Out!! lurking at the end of that game's strategy guide.
[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.]
Categories: Column: Game Mag Weaseling