Can Video Game Magazines Survive?

Can Video Game Magazines Survive?

If print is dead, then video game magazines are dead twice over. When the Internet gained mainstream relevance in the mid-90s, video game news, reviews, previews, and blogs were among the first bits of content to jump from the magazine page to the digital world. Our access to game-related content has only become faster and more efficient with the advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter. It’s no wonder major magazine publishers like Future are posting huge losses: There’s just no place for the printed word as far as gaming is concerned. Right?

Don’t be so sure (cue dramatic piano bonging).

Game magazines are not dead. True, the environment is tumultuous, as you might expect from any landscape undergoing massive shifts. Ad sales are stagnating, and game magazines’ entire reader base has been punched repeatedly in the gut for the past decade. Demo CDs, once bundled with many video game magazines as a tempting incentive, are now only useful as Frisbees and coasters thanks to the downloadable market. But the situation for game magazines is far from hopeless, and some clever editors and media spokespersons are still managing to snare readers by offering content that is hard to come by online.

Specifically, the generation that grew up with Nintendo Power (a magazine that still commands a large reader base, despite being under Future’s banner) also grew up with an appreciation for game magazines. Even though there’s not much point in buying game magazines for news and reviews, some exclusive previews are still doled out to certain magazines before they hit websites. Beyond that, twenty- and-thirty-something game players appreciate well-written features about all aspects of gaming culture.

True, the Internet isn’t short on game-related features, but for understandable reasons, many of those are tailored to grab traffic. Features printed in game magazines offer a break from Top 10 lists and are generally written with more depth, research, and care. Printed stories are also subject to harsher copy-editing, as magazine layouts make it necessary to maintain strict control over word counts. Moreover, readers are less forgiving of sloppy writing when they must pay to access a feature. By contrast, copy editors are usually the first casualties when a round of layoffs hits an online publication.

GamePro is one magazine that works to offer top-quality features, but an intriguing new experiment is also underway by 1UP. Staff member Jeremy Parish is overseeing “1UP Presents,” a print-on-demand magazine with thematic features and no ads. With no pressure to meet subscription numbers and/or please advertisers, 1UP Presents is a great option for anyone who just wants to read some high-quality game writing (Parish also works on GameSpite, a quarterly collection of printed game content).

Of course, print-on-demand has its downsides: A high price for a low page count (even taking into account the lack of ads–digital versions of the magazine will follow the printed versions, however) and high shipping prices outside of the United States. On the upside, the comments thread following 1UP Presents’ birth announcement serves as a great barometer for modern attitudes regarding game magazines: One side scoffs (coupled with predicable cries of “Print is dead!”), and the other side shows interest, even elation. There is a market for printed game content, and people might be surprised at its size.

People who love game magazines maintain a fiery enthusiasm about the medium. As long as those people continue to buy, and as long as those same people continue to write features worth reading, blood will always pump through the game magazine market.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

1 Comments

  1. In the specific case of Nintendo Power, it would seem as though something like demo discs would be a boon, for obvious reasons.

Leave a Reply