['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.]


Media kits for old game magazines can often be depressing things to thumb through, especially when you know what happened to the magazine in question right afterward.

When the ad-sales folks from a magazine are trying to attract new advertisers, one of their weapons has always been the media kit -- a slick-looking folder or binder filled with information on the mag, its circulation, and its audience. It's a show of strength for the magazine, a physical symbol of how successful it is and how dominant a position it's got in the marketplace, and as a result they're often very pretty-looking pieces to collect if you're someone like me.

I've picked up assorted media kits over the years (the oldest one I have is from 1979 and covers Creative Computing), but while reorganizing my closet I came across a 2004-era one for Computer Games Magazine and its sister publication, nerd-culture media mag Now Playing that caught my attention. I took this home with me when ADV Films, my former employer, laid off their magazine department in June '08.

In the cover letter, addressed to ADV's old marketing guy Rod Peters, the sales executive for Now Playing tries his hardest to push for the young new mag. "We already have 75,000+ subscribers and we placed 100,000 on newsstands," he wrote. "So if you compare that to Wizard the circ is almost the [sic] identical and we're on issue number 2!!!"

(One of the oldest tenets of magazine publishing: You can print as many magazines as you like, but that doesn't mean you can sell them. Look at incite, for example.)


Theglobe.com, distributor of CG and Now Playing, certainly had high hopes. NP, which debuted as a section within CG in 2004, was the company's shot at branching out from their flagship game publication and launching a similar title in the more general entertainment niche. Lots of publishers have tried this over the years, from EGM parent Sendai (Hero Illustrated) to Dave Halverson, who launched the very short-lived Rocket and later took over publication of Geek Monthly. The results have been mixed -- Hero Illustrated and Geek Monthly both lasted a few years, but Rocket and Now Playing both faded away after only a very small amount of issues.

But those days were far in the future when theglobe did up this media kit in '04, bragging about the Now Playing staff's "ability to identify the next 'big' thing before it breaks into mainstream acceptance" and touting the "Generation Now" audience they've brilliantly captured. Every magazine like this, including Wizard and my very own PiQ, claims something along these lines to their potential advertisers -- we're special, dammit, because our readership is hip and with it in ways that the readers of those other mags aren't. It's one of those statements that sounds plausibly impressive and doesn't require many stats or facts or anything to back it up.

I also like how they tout Computer Games' having "the industry's highest percentage of female readers" -- which, it turns out, was a purported 11 percent. I suppose that says something about the usual audience for magazines like these.

Over on Sodapop Journal, a pop-culture site run by my old co-worker Robert Cortez, there'll be a podcast coming up very soon where we talk about the present and future of "nerd media" mags -- everything from game titles to the formerly packed anime-mag market, now pared down to only one regular publication in the US. Check it out once it comes up, but in the meantime, if you're a publisher looking to advertise your products somewhere, remember this: don't trust media kits too much.

[Kevin Gifford used to breed ferrets, but now he's busy running 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 of publishers and game companies.]