['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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I mentioned back in August, when news of World of Warcraft: The Magazine first hit, that the only similar project ever attempted is EON, a quarterly title devoted exclusively to CCP Games' EVE Online. It's produced by MMM Publishing in London and sold exclusively on the Internet; you can buy a 4-issue subscription for $55.95 or buy any of the past 17 issues for $14.95 a pop.

I was previously aware of EON because there was a point last year when issue 1, which was sold out at CCP's online store, was going for serious premiums on eBay -- $100 and upwards, prices normally reserved for very old CGWs and Electronic Games issues in great condition. I wondered what on earth the big deal was, but I didn't investigate it further because I figured it was just crazy MMO dudes doing what crazy MMO dudes do: pay tons of money for collectibles, and maybe not shower every day. (The issue was eventually reprinted and is back on sale for list price.)

With WOW:TM on the horizon and Beckett Massive Online Gamer not getting any more readable no matter how hard I stare at it, I decided to take a look at EON to see if it offered any clue to what the WOW mag might be like. MMM was kind enough to spot me a couple of issues, and I have to say I'm very impressed.

What strikes you first is the design. Like what WOW:TM's braintrust emphasized in the original press blast, EON is about quality -- though it's only 84 pages an issue, the paper quality is obscenely fantastic, and the design's impeccable. Visually, the magazine is a bit like your typical Brit-mag (lots of box-outs and graphs, that sort of thing), but the design is artistic in approach, pretty to the eye and filled with details. It's a far cry from Beckett, and I think it provides a decent yardstick for WOW:TM to try and measure itself against. (One funny thing I noted: EON very rarely publishes photographs of actual people -- almost never, in fact, except for arty shots of CCP employees in the interview features. That's certainly different from Beckett MOG, which is packed with digicam grabs of frumpy, pasty-complexioned gamers.)

Being so devoted to a single game, EON has a couple of charming elements you won't see in any other mag. One is the advertising -- not for games or hardware, but things like EVE websites, services, and corporations (ie. guilds). You don't buy ads with real cash, but with ISK, the in-game currency -- 700 million for a full page, 1.4 billion if you want MMM to design it up for you. I suppose it's mainly a vanity thing for the corporations that throw ads in there, but it plays upon the advantages of print in covering a constantly-changing game. "Best of all," as EON itself puts it, "advertising makes your mark on EVE permanent."

The other, and I suppose this is what WOW:TM aims for as well, is depth. There's a little bit of fluff in every issue of EON (mostly in the fanfiction, which is at least very well illustrated), but the vast majority of pages contain serious hardcore game-oriented content -- alliance updates, ship reviews, CCP personnel interviews, and so on. Beginners aren't exactly thrown out by the ear, but they're expected to know the lingo, at the very least. For a complete non-player like me, I might as well try to read the Journal of the American Medical Association on the can. "Territory lies at EVE's heart," one article asks. "But the problems of empire building are becoming obvious. Is there a solution?" I don't know! Is there?

Kidding aside, even an outsider like myself can see that EON's carved out a nice niche for itself -- and, I guess, a profitable one, if they've stayed in business this long. If MMM can succeed with the EVE audience, then Future's got to have it in the bag covering the #1 MMO in the universe, right? In this sort of business, where reader dollars generate nearly 100% of your revenue, quality really does dictate success, I suppose -- that's what it'll all come down to.

[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.]