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On Ebay the other day I got a complete collection of Amiga Game Zone, the United States' first, last and only magazine devoted entirely to Amiga games. A complete collection's only three issues, yes, but it was still a major feat in my book -- after all, publisher/editor Geoff Miller states in his page on the mag that the title had a subscriber base of about a thousand and a total circulation of 5000. I remember seeing it on the newsstand once, at a Micro Center somewhere outside of Philadelphia, and the sheer novelty of discovering a US-produced Amiga game magazine was such that I still remember the encounter today.

It could be said that launching any sort of Amiga games mag in the US was a pretty foolhardy idea. The platform was big in Europe, especially after 1988 or so, but whether through sheer bad luck or due to Commodore's well-documented inability to market the machine in its home country, it was never a mainstream success in America. I remember seeing demo units maybe around 1990 or so at software stores, but that was about it. And this situation was doubly true in 1994, the year Amiga Game Zone was launched -- Commodore declared bankruptcy early in the year, which pretty much eliminated any advertising base AGZ would've had even in the best of times.


But Geoff wasn't pessimistic enough to let these little details stop him. Amiga Game Zone is very much a one-man production -- Geoff was the editorial, publishing, and sales department, wrote a lot of each issue, and also ran a mail-order Amiga software store from the magazine's pages, all while toiling as a grad student at the University of Illinois. Thumbing through the three issues (which range in size from 40 to 48 pages) really gives you a feel for how much enthusiasm he had for both the print medium and the Amiga. The internals are black-and-white, but the design's obviously inspired by the British Amiga mags of the day, and every page is packed with eye-pleasing screens and catchy headlines. It really reads like a cut-down version of Amiga Power, which is pretty high praise in my book.

Sadly, the market was beyond not there, and although Geoff states that the magazine was profitable in the limited scope he was working in, the "bimonthly" magazine was released haphazardly in 1994 and closed up shop with its third issue.

A pretty cool mag, and reading it, I can't help but think in "what if" scenarios. Namely, what if there was a 100% games magazine devoted to the Commodore 64 in the US, like there was in the UK with Zzap64? There were several home-oriented C64 mags, of course, including RUN, COMPUTE!'s Gazette, and Transactor, not to mention Commodore's own self-titled rag. But the funny thing was they all acted like reviewing games was beneath them, giving them only small, text heavy coverage and often talking very little about the substance of the game they were reviewing. It was obvious that no one in the regular editorial staff were real gamers -- this, despite the fact that at least half (if not three quarters) of advertising in these mags was for recreational software by the late '80s. What if there was the Commodore, or Amiga, equivalent of Nintendo Power on the stands in 1988? It could've made a mint for the mag publisher willing to try it out.

PS. Condolences to the Game Informer staff for losing circ manager and long-time writer Paul Anderson, who passed away Tuesday from ALS at the age of 38. He had been working for the mag since 1992, making him one of the title's most experienced veterans alongside Andy McNamara.

[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.]