['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.]

gp-0912.jpgSoon, kind readers, it'll be Christmas again -- a somewhat stunted Christmas for gamers thanks to all the top-tier titles that got delayed to February or so, but Christmas nonetheless.

The era of thick, 300- (or 200-, or 130-)page game mags coming out around this time of the year is, sadly, long gone. There's still a fair bit of excitement to be found, though: mag veteran John Davison is reinventing GamePro in his image (you can see it already in reviews like this one posted on their website),

World Of Warcraft: The Magazine is set to launch soon despite some delays, and Game Informer's revamp (or, at least, their sense of cover design) is just the sort of breath of fresh air the print-mag business.

Sadly, the postal service hates me, and so I've gotten neither GP nor GI yet. Ah well. Instead, click past the fold to read about all the (mainly Future) mags that I've received in the past two weeks.

Nintendo Power December & Holiday 2009

np-0912.jpg   np-0913.jpg

Cover: New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Zelda: Spirit Tracks
2009 Average Paid Circ: 184,662

I had inadvertently forgotten about the December issue of NP. I put the issue in my bag, intending to read it while I was running some errands. It wound up getting forgotten in there for a couple weeks, suffering a little water damage in the process. Apologies about that. The experience reminds me of the early '90s, when my middle-school self kept NPs scattered under the bed and let the dog use them as chew toys. (All the NPs in my collection until 2004 or so have other people's addresses on them chiefly for that reason.)

Considering it's the December edition and all, issue number 248 doesn't have a ton of compelling content to it -- the best bits are a feature on Infinite Space and a spread of Shantae concept art that dates as far back as 1994.

This feature, written by WayForward head Matt Bozon, continues in the holiday issue, which is a fair bit beefier in terms of interesting stuff, including a big ol' DS retrospective with 12 different devs (including Yuji Horii) commenting on the little system's fifth anniversary.

More interesting to me, however: This issue actually has an ad from Nintendo (for the DSi), the first time I've seen the company place an ad in a print game mag in about two years. It's especially noteworthy because alongside Capcom, NOA used to be one of the industry's most steadfast ad supporters. Something just for the holidays, or a sign of a comeback?

Official Xbox Magazine Holiday 2009

oxmus-0913.jpg

Cover: Avatar
Paid Circ: 300,128

The cheapo-gaming feature is IMO the nicest part of what's otherwise a pretty basic end-of-year issue. The Avatar love among Future mags continues unabated, and the hands-on preview inside (complete with lots of commentary from some of the Quebecois making it) is quite nice.

PlayStation: The Official Magazine Holiday 2009

ptom-0913.jpg

Cover: Assassin's Creed II
Paid Circ: 161,762

This is a subscriber-only cover, the first (I think) PTOM has ever done. It's a lovely piece of art, but in real life that vertical streak down the left (due to residue from the glue that holds the GTA: Chinatown Wars ad to the cover) mars things a little bit.

The 8-page (non-exclusive) Assassin II review inside is well-designed and well-written, as is the holiday shopping guide -- and that's high praise from me, 'cos I hate print-mag holiday gift guides. My favorite piece, though: A roundtable involving Ken Levine, Randy Pitchford and a few others discussing why it's pointless to make a straight-on FPS any longer. Very thoughtful, and I wish it was more than a single spread long.

Beckett Massive Online Gamer January/February 2010

beckettmog1001.jpg

Cover: WOW

The first issue of MOG to come with a disc, though it's just an ad tie-in and (apparently) not a regular feature. The content between the covers is as inscrutable to me as always, but I get the impression they've redesigned a bit -- things are a lot cleaner and there are fewer stereotypical GamePro-style crazy backgrounds.

[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.]