['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which covers video game magazines from the late '70s all the way up to right now.]

Before kicking off, I thought it'd be a good idea to discuss the rumors that Nintendo Power is closing, first reported by IGN.

The rumor seemed to come as a pretty big surprise to the rest of the industry, even with the recent unclear state of which Nintendo of America sections are moving to which new area of the US from Redmond. However, everyone I've contacted who'd be in a position to know what's up with NP isn't saying anything -- a "no comment" state of affairs, where you'd think that folks would be denying it up and down if things were sailing along smoothly over at NP.

I don't have any evidence to back up the following claim, but I think this indicates that NP is either folding or could theoretically be turning into a Wii channel. The latter option makes absolutely perfect sense to me personally, the more I think about it. NOA and NP produce the exact same content they're producing now, except they charge 200 Wii Points or whatever for every fortnight's update. Their overhead's drastically reduced (no postage, no printing costs), and their target audience -- remember the teenage male "fanboys" discussed in NP's own media guide? -- is served on a more direct and personal basis.

With OPM dead in the US and off sharply in the UK thanks to a lack of cover disc (and OXM rapidly reinventing itself thanks to a 360 coverdisc not being that big a deal to Internet-ready households), an elves-leaving-Rivendell type exodus to online seems like the ideal next evolution for "official" publications. Nothing is going to compare to Nintendo Power as a magazine, but would Nintendo Power the Wii channel have access to a wider audience and potentially be useful to far more people than "fanboys"? I hope so.

You can hear me pontificate more on this subject tomorrow when Episode 30 of the Player One Podcast is uploaded. I'm on there as a special guest, and in addition to Nintendo Power's situation, I'll be discussing the modern state of magazines, great old mags, how I managed to pack over 6000 issues and three ferrets into a single room, and much more. Listen, you!

Until then, click forward for a rundown of all the game mags of the past two weeks.

Game Informer June 2007


Cover: Army dude

All of a sudden, Game Informer has an influx of non-endemic advertising -- Old Spice, Honda, three branches of the US military, Ball Park Franks, and (as always) gold ol' Bowflex. Apparently GI's readers are a lot more patriotic (and have far more stupendous abs) than I envisioned them.

Assuming that these are not complimentary (i.e. free) ads of some sort, then GI's marketing department is certainly earning their keep, especially considering how much higher GI's ad rates are over the rest of the game-mag pack. It all helps to make this month's issue 132 pages long, 20 more than last month and bucking the "summer of discontent" thinning-out trend that the industry traditionally faces. Hope they keep it up -- I know that all tech mags face the same issues these days, but having such an enormous, billion-dollar business covered by dinky little 100-page mags just seems wrong.

Connect (the news section) is utterly fascinating as usual. There's a two-page feature on the "uncanny valley" of game graphics, a concept I'm amazed that any consumer game mag besides Edge would try to tackle, along with a seven-page T&T-style roundtable that attempts to answer "the big questions" -- is PC gaming dead, has Sony already lost, can anyone make good Wii games besides Nintendo, and so forth. I'm tempted to say "forget it" to any other US mag's news section at this point because now that Computer Games/MASSIVE is gone, GI does it so much better than anyone else that it's not even close.

The features I'm not quite so ecstasic about. Call of Duty 4 and Square's The Last Remnant are the main ones, and after reading them both, I think GI dropped the ball on the cover choice. A marine shoot-em-up franchise changing venues from one hackneyed, played-it-a-million-times European location to a hackneyed, played-it-a-thousand-times Middle East location is not news. Square's first serious, full-budget original franchise in years, complete with a ton of interesting quotes from the game's Japanese director, is definitely news -- and it also makes for one of GI's better-written features in recent memory. Besides, what's the point of putting a brand name on a cover if you can't even really make out anything on the picture that goes with it?

Smaller features on Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction (which looks exactly like an episode of 24, they aren't trying to hide it) and random-Codemasters-title-of-the-week Rise of the Argonauts round out the feature well. The reviews are fine as always, unless you like Pokemon, in which case maybe you're better off not opening this issue at all. You've been warned.

Games for Windows: The Official Magazine June 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: World of Warcraft

Not much is happening in PC games right now, apparently, so what the hey, how about 13 pages out of a 102-page magazine devoted to World of Warcraft? This would normally be disaster for a casual reader (as anyone who's picked up a copy of Beckett Massive Online Gamer knows), but this piece is written by Sean Molloy, who I still think is the best writer in all of video games media (and who would probably be very embarrassed if I brought up his GamePro "persona" at this point, so I won't), and his 13 pages are half deep look into the Blizzard offices in Irvine, half trivia about the game and its developers. It's all great to read and easily worthy of the good name GFW's building up for itself in the realm of features.

For the more hardcore among us, there's exclusive coverage of Flagship's Mythos and a dev profile of the crazy Russians behind IL-2 Sturmovik. For the not-so-hardcore, there's an interview with Peter Moore that continues to make him look as evil-incarnate as he possibly can. I don't remember him having that look at Sega, I dunno...

Game Developer May 2007


Cover: Elebits

Awwwwww. This would be great cover art for Nintendo Dream or some other hardcore-oriented Japanese mag, but it looks positively lovely when juxtaposed with GD's simple cover look. The internal illustrations inside the Elebits postmortem are quite endearing, too, not to mention Shingo Mukaitoge's text.

Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes June/July 2007


Cover: Super Paper Mario

This magazine has no ads. At all. The back cover is an "alternate" cover of sorts with God of War II on it. That's pretty rough.

But I don't care about that, because this issue kicks off Video Gamer Spotlight, a page devoted to interviewing one of Cheat Codes' readers that reminds me of the goofier days of Nintendo Power's letters section. The first subject is Marcellus Swint, a 19-year-old Philadelphian who works for FYE as their "resident know-it-all" and lists Sonic Adventure as his favorite game of all time ("I'll admit that the series has hit its inevitable rocky period, but I remain steady and true to the Blue Blur").

I'd love to scan the picture that Marcellus Swint sent into the magazine, but I think I'll save it for the next big natural disaster or terror attack, because I'm sure we'll all need a good laugh then.

Ultimate Videogame Codebook (CHEATS!) Volume 12


Look out, it's another Future special! This one has PS3 and Wii cheats, I hear, nestled somewhere among its 320 pages!

I feel like such a tool for buying these sometimes, but I just can't resist CHEATS! in big block letters for some reason. Ah well.

[Kevin Gifford breeds ferrets and runs Magweasel, a site for collectors and fans of old video-game and computer magazines. He's also an editor at Newtype USA magazine.]