['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 - this week's column clarifies shutdown specifics for Tips & Tricks magazine and offers a new possibility for the takeover of Nintendo Power's publishing rights.]


As has been widely reported online, Larry Flynt Publishing's Tips & Tricks is shutting down... at least, in the form we have it now. According to the staffers I talked to, September will be the last issue of the 13-year-old title; however, LFP will continue to publish T&T Codebooks in a bimonthly format for as long as they're profitable. All of T&T's editors have been laid off, but some will continue to work on the Codebooks as freelancers.

The sudden-but-not-all-that-unexpected closure of T&T apparently stems from a drop in sales and ad revenue over the past few months, a trend that recent incremental redesigns and new features weren't able to reverse. It marks the fourth US game-mag folding in six months after OPM, Computer Games and Beckett Spotlight: Cheat Codes (yes, I count that as a magazine), with little sign of new launches happening anytime soon.

Recently I've wondered if the greatest threat facing video-game print media isn't rising costs, the Internet, or a jaded readership. Instead, it may be the magazines' own sense of momentum, and the resulting reluctance on the publishers' end to make major changes, lest the gamble fails to pay off. I know T&T's staff over the years to be a smart and talented lot, but I wonder if T&T is a good example of this.

It's been clear for almost a decade now that online was where people will go for video-game help, but the magazine didn't make an honest, all-out effort to revamp itself until last year. I don't think that's because the editors were lazy bums -- I'm sure they wanted to chuck the old T&T and put as much stuff as they could into whatever new title resulted. Instead, I think Mr. Flynt and the other publishing highers-up didn't want change because change brings the unfamiliar, and it's hard to write a sales projection based on the unfamilar.

Ultimately, it should serve as warning to other publications that failing to adapt to the times will be the doom of your title. Sometimes I wonder if the British approach to game mags -- lots of new titles instead of just a few, all with runs of over 100 issues -- is healthier, serving to keep ideas fresh in the industry. But that's speculation for another time.

In the meantime, click on to read all about the new US mags of the past two weeks.

Nintendo Power August 2007


Cover: Soul Calibur Legends

An interesting parallel to T&T's fate is the hot rumor going around town these days about Nintendo Power's future. If word can be trusted (and lord knows that no one ever spreads unsubstantiated lies in the video-game business), Prima Games is the main candidate for taking up the NP name these days. I don't know how the magazine would fit into that rumor; presumably Prima's chief interests would lie in being the official publisher of all Nintendo's strategy guides. Further news as events warrant, I suppose.

Anyway, this month's Soul Calibur Legends features is long, text-heavy, and rather Game Informer-like in style, which is novel to find in Nintendo Power. The rest of the magazine isn't too exciting, it being a pretty slow period for Wii stuff right now, though there are interviews aplenty as always (including with Itagaki, the Contra 4 folks and Eiji Aonuma. Also, holy cow, the Contra 4 poster is awesome. It's very obvious that whoever drew it took their cues from 80s-era US game-cover art; anyone around back then will crack a smile when they see this.

Play July 2007


Cover: Naruto: Rise of a Ninja

Here's a cover that is right up Play's alley, and they run with the game for what seems like eight hundred pages, all filled with exciting art and screenshots of the little orange guy running around and jumping on trees. In classic Play fashion, it's followed soon after by a page on Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal, something you most assuredly won't find anywhere else.

One thing I found odd: why two pages on Sony Gamer's Day and one on Tecmo's press event? Those things happened ages ago and online media covered them just fine. At least the spread on the StarCraft II Seoul event had some nice pictures and commentary.

PC Gamer August 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: StarCraft II

I love the coverlines on this issue. "What You Won't Find Online". "Think you can't return opened games? WRONG!" That's classic Future stuff there, and I like it.

But the first question that comes to mind: From a late-June standpoint, why should we care what PC Gamer thought about StarCraft II back in mid-May? Mainly, it seems to be some new screens and an exhaustive description of all the units and such announced so far, as well as extensive developer commentary. It's a nice read, but two other pieces caught my interest more: a new column by Richard Garriott about the idea of MMOs hitting the mainstream, and the "return opened games" piece by EIC Greg Vederman. (It involves complaining about the in-game EULAs, and it meets with mild to moderate success depending on the company.)

PSM August 2007 (Podcast)


Cover: The Darkness

Can't say I care much about the cover subject, but two features inside -- one on PSP hacking, the other pitting three writers against each other to get the best PS2 used-game lot for $100 -- seems to indicate PSM following in the footsteps of OXM and doing more original theme-based features.

[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.]