['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.]

arcadeexpress01.jpg   arcadeexpress26.jpg

I recently spent a great deal of money (I'm not going to tell you how much, but it was a reasonable percentage of my weekly salary) to buy a stack of Arcade Express issues. These were the first issues of AE I have seen on the marketplace in years, and it's an almost complete run of the newsletter before it changed names to Electronic Games Hotline. The last time I saw AEs for sale, it was 2002 and I was attending the auction at the Classic Gaming Expo. A whole stack of them, which I think Bill Kunkel signed no less, went for around $90 -- a paltry sum -- mainly because I don't think anyone in the room really knew what they were.

Launched by Reese Publishing in 1982 and edited by Joyce Worley, Arcade Express was a sort of supplement to Electronic Games, the first mass-market video game magazine in the United States. It was a typewritten, subscription-only, eight-page newsletter devised to keep readers as up-to-date as possible on game industry news, something difficult to do with the long-lead-time Electronic Games. "There is a vast amount of information crossing our desks everyday at Electronic Games magazine," Worley wrote in the first issue. "Arcade Express will rush this information to you every two weeks, to help you keep aware of what's happening in our favorite hobby."

While AE lacks much in art or purple prose, it's the primary source when it comes to getting a bead on the gestalt of the video-game industry during the age it was published. When it launched in August 1982, everything was roses and honey for consoles. Emerson was announcing a new game system; Coleco had just launched their own; Tiger, Fox and Mattel were becoming 2600 third parties; and Atari was signing a blockbuster deal with Lucasfilm to market and publish the film giant's first video games. The party rolled on through the end of the year, with new game rollouts and arcade license announcements consistently dominating the Arcade Express news pages.

The first piece of negative news doesn't come until issue 9 (December 15, 1982), when 2600 third-party game maker Apollo announced that it had filed for Chapter 11. A more sinister sign of the impending shakeout appears in issue 11, where news arrives that Atari exec Perry Odak has resigned after a report that his company will miss its earnings expectations for the second half of 1982.

As you proceed through 1983, you can't help but notice how much of each issue is filled with (a) price drop announcements (b) early coverage of products that never made it to stores, like Magnavox's Odyssey3 and Mattel's Intellivision III consoles. By issue 26 (July 31, 1983), the newsletter is looking downright gloomy: Atari and Mattel lay off over 1200 workers; Fox Video Games slashes 2600 cartridge prices in response to "the current market glut of VCS-compatible games"; and Atari is resorting to hiring an ex-cigarette company vice president as their new chairman and CEO. I can only imagine how gloomier -- and more interesting -- things get with future issues.

Arcade Express changed its name to Electronic Games Hotline with the August 14, 1983 issue; Reese went on to publish 27 more biweekly newsletters before folding the title with the August 12, 1984 edition. It's my plan to scan in my issues for public consumption (a project I've already received Worley's permission for), as this is a seriously fascinating look into a facet of the video-game industry I never had a chance to experience for myself.

[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.]