['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.]

PSE, aka PSE2 aka PlayStation Extreme aka PSExtreme aka Dimension PS-X, was in constant publication for over a decade and yet nobody's ever heard of it. When I worked at Ziff Davis Media, it regularly came in the mail and became the butt of neverending jokes -- it was tabloid-shaped, it was incredibly thin, it was written and designed as if the editors of GameFan grew up and got lazy and disillusioned. I was quizzical on how the magazine could possibly be profitable, but was assured it had something to do with its parent, Dimension Publishing, producing strategy guides and somehow getting PSE thrown on the EB Games magazine racks as part of Brady Games' distribution. Or something.

I thought the magazine had petered out sometime early last year once they lost the tabloid format. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was poking around the bookshelves at ADV Films (site of my day job) and found issues as recent as May 2006. Apparently we had a complimentary subscription, and apparently PSE was still putting out issue after 40-page issue, complete with real ads from real game companies. But who could possibly have been reading? The magazine had no website (it was last updated in 2004 before disappearing), it had no advertising at all -- heck, issues beyond summer 2005 don't even seem to include any method of subscribing to the magazine.

Russ Perry, an Illinois collector and the only person I know with a better magazine collection than mine, lists the most recent edition in his possession as December 2005, and I know there's no way he would have missed the 2006 issues unless he was actually unable to resubscribe. This suggests to me that most of the very last issues were sent almost exclusively to PSE's "comp list" of game developers, publishers, and potential advertisers, such as ADV Films. It also suggests that they lasted until May 2006 mainly so they could fulfill outstanding subscriptions -- i.e., their subscriber base was so pathetically miniscule that no other magazine was interested in buying it out. Just a theory, though.

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The first incarnation of PSE was Dimension PS-X, which launched with the November 1995 issue and became the first monthly magazine in the States exclusively devoted to the PlayStation. It changed its name to PSExtreme in Issue 4 after Sendai, publishers of rival magazine P.S.X. (which was first on the stands with a one-off in late summer 1995), complained about the similar title. Greg Off, a member of GameFan's charter staff, was the editor-in-chief.

The original Dimension PS-X was an extremely hardcore-oriented mag that owed much of its look to the GameFan of the time. It even recruited ex-GameFan alum Kei Kuboki to head its import section, titled "Impact" and taking up a good quarter of the mag at times. Kei left pretty quickly, but the renamed PSExtreme continued along similar lines and had its pinnacle from 1997 to 1998, when every issue was over 100 pages and the mag easily outclassed Ziff Davis Media's P.S.X. The tables began to turn with the launch of Future's PSM and Ziff's Official PlayStation Magazine in 1997 -- PSExtreme's low-budget GameFan design was beginning to look hokey and outdated, and its rivals' more refined look held more appeal with the mass audience that began to buy PlayStation consoles in droves. Dimension kept going, however, helped by a deal with Prima that had them producing dozens of strategy guides for the publisher. (They also published Nintendo 64 mag Q64 for several issues.)

PSExtreme relaunched in October 2000 as PSE2: The Player's Guide To The World Of Playstation, a massive-looking mag with a cheap $3.99 cover price and a page dimension set similar to Rolling Stone's. Things didn't really change in the editorial department, however, and the expanded page width mainly resulted in enormous blocks of wombly wibbling text occupying the center of every page. Things continued in this fashion until January 2005, when PSE2's page size was reduced to more normal dimensions. It was at this point when I thought they folded (especially after editor Zach Meston left to join Atlus and Greg Off and Tim Lindquist went to head up Hardcore Gamer magazine), but I was wrong -- they relaunched again in April 2005 by redesigning the logo and dropping the "2" from their name.

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May 2006, displayed above, is the final issue. Editor-in-chief Mark Androvich told me in an email that the June/July issue was completed and ready for printing when the plug was pulled. (At least one ex-staffer is currently suing for back pay.)

Its mere existence is truly strange. Almost nobody I know was aware that PSE2 existed by the time it became PSE. It was off all known magazine shelves, although it apparently got more distribution in corner groceries and other such non-traditional areas. As mentioned, it had no website nor any name recognition amongst gamers. So why did it last another 13 issues? Was it just so editor-in-chief Androvich would have something to do when not busy with his party rental service? Who was paying the printing bills?

Regardless, PSE, whose circulation must have been in the very low thousands toward the end, has become the toughest mainstream game mag to assemble a complete collection of. Why? Well, very few people bought it after 1999 or so, and arguably for good reason, as its approach to coverage by 2006 wasn't very well suited for the gaming audience or for the print medium it used. (That, and it had a lot of flubs -- the May issue's review of Ice Age 2 is illustrated with screenshots from Sonic Riders.)

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He owns enough magazines to smother himself with should the need arise, and his secret fantasy is for someone flush with game-publisher stock options to give him a monthly stipend so he can spend a year researching their full history and finishing the site. In his "off" time he is an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]