080627-1.jpg['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.]

Despite what the 90-degree weather outside is telling me, we're now into October, formerly the point where game magazines started to become thick with ads and extra content. Not so much any longer, sadly -- Nintendo seems to have dropped print advertising for good, and so have more than a few other game publishers over the course of this year.

Still, given that I cover a one-off magazine this month with 258 pages of content, things can't be all that terrible, can they?

The new-look Game Informer has not come out yet, although their redesigned website is now online. The design structure is blog-driven and similar to sites like Bitmob, but includes more traditional review/preview-style coverage as well, striking a compromise between massive all-in-one sites like IGN and the casual reading experience of Kotaku and the rest.

It's the most ambitious print-mag-driven site I've seen since GameFan's long-forgotten web presence, and I look forward to seeing it find its own voice among the competition as time goes on.

Also, the logo is A-plus.

Getting back on subject, let's take a look at the mags that went on sale in the past two weeks:

Nintendo Power November 2009

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Cover: Reviews blowout

Level-5's Akihiro Hino and the new DSiWare version of Shantae loom large in this issue -- Hino because he's interviewed twice (once as part of the company's Japan press event of a while back and once for NP's Power Profiles column) and Shantae because they devoted six pages to her. Wow! It's probably no accident that the preview's written by Mr. Phil Theobald, who wrote a piece in GameNOW long ago about the unreleased GBA Shantae and has since become the man everyone in the business goes to whenever things need to be written about Shantae. (Not that this occurs very often.)

Otherwise, the issue is heavy with reviews and previews, along with features on a couple of low-profile games like C.O.P. The Recruit.

Something of note: This issue of NP has not one, but two advertisements from ocarina sellers. Over a decade on, and ocarinas are still fashion items among Nintendo fanboyts, apparently. One of the makers sells a $24.95 "Majora's Mask Ocarina" with a picture of the mask right on the thing; how do they get away with not asking Nintendo's permission for that, I wonder?

Official Xbox Magazine November 2009

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Cover: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

The cover piece is nice and all, being a dev-assisted hands-on with some striking art design, but the real highlights are two behind-the-scenes dev features, one devoted to the 1 vs. 100 beta and another revealing the data that devs collect from gamers as they play online.

You'll certainly want to read both -- especially the former, with its breathless account of the assorted disasters the devs had to deal with running a live online game show. Think of it as a slightly more targeted version of a Game Developer postmortem.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine November 2009

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Cover: Uncharted 2

P:TOM this month has a fold-out cover that's not advertising, but a nice little spread explaining Uncharted 2's backstory. It's strange how novel this seemed to me, opening up the fold and discovering...er, content. It should happen more often, I think.

Rob Smith is no longer EIC of the mag (I don't know what he's up to now); in his place for the time being is Eric Bratcher, who wrote for PSM until 2005 and then moved online to GamesRadar. The first issue he heads is business as usual for P:TOM. They've got their own Modern Warfare 2 hands-on, as well as a really long Uncharted 2 review and a few neat, quick dev pieces up front, including one where they pit the executive producer of Fallout 3 against a "super hardcore fan" of the game.

The issue's designed nicely as always, but it's also marred a bit by two large advertising posters stuck right in the middle of article spreads.

Beckett Massive Online Gamer November/December 2009

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Cover: Aion

Aion is big news these days, and there's a pull-out intro guide to it in this issue. Otherwise, I can't say much about MOG that I haven't already.

One-Offs of The Week

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OXM has a one-off on stands now to commemorate Halo 3: ODST, but -- as much as I appreciate the art of the well-put-together one-off -- it's hard to drum up the enthusiasm to buy $10 book that clocks in at under 80 pages, many of which are fold-out posters. I'll buy it sooner or later anyway, I know I will, but I get the idea that Future's resources are running a little thin for one-offs like these.

I did buy the PlayStation 3 Cheaters Black Book, nonetheless; it's the usual mix of quick-guide content reprinted from P:TOM and more detailed strategy bits borrowed from Future's UK magazines. Far more enticing is Retro Gamer Collection Volume 3 -- again, all reprints from the UK monthly mag, but in a massive, impressive-looking package that looks huge and inviting next to all the wafer-thin US mags on the shelves these days. At $20 it ain't cheap, but it does give excellent value for the money if you don't follow the magazine each month.

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Finally, I'd naturally be remiss if I didn't mention the October '09 issue of Game Developer, which just reached my mailbox today. The cover-postmortem is one of the more fascinating I've read in a long time; it's filled with all sorts of remarkable trivia and merits a read from any gamer. (Did you know that being able to harm pedestrians at all makes your game get an instant "18 and over" rating in Japan?)

[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.]