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The State Of U.S. Videogame Magazines 97

simoniker writes "Wonder how video game magazines are still alive and kicking, in the age of the Interweb? Here's 'a quick tour of all the game magazines you can find in U.S. bookshelves right now', with plenty of commentary and cover scans, from Nintendo Power to EGM: 'The output isn't quite what it was ten or even five years ago, but there's still a remarkable amount of print getting churned out each month -- and what's more, nearly all of it these days is written for 'core' gamers like you and me.'" I enjoy most of Ziff's magazines (EGM, CGW). I also happily pay through the nose for the British Mag Edge, which is the finest gaming magazine in the world.
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The State Of U.S. Videogame Magazines

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  • Main problem (Score:2, Informative)

    by daranz ( 914716 ) on Monday June 05, 2006 @11:22AM (#15472528)
    I think the main problem with the printed game magazines is the magazines are usually very behind, with whatever content is available online. People tend to want games soon after they come out, and that's when they can read reviews and articles about them online. With magazines, on the other hand, you often have to wait 1-2 months before a review comes out. For this reason, I stopped bothering with printed game mags a long time ago.

    Besides that, there's the multimediablitiy (if that's a word) of online content - you simply cannot post tons of high-res screenshots and videos in a printed magazine. What you can do, on the other hand, is get exclusives - reviews, previews, etc. - which seems to be the major thing that print mags do to attract readers these days.
  • Re:The Brits! (Score:4, Informative)

    by payndz ( 589033 ) on Monday June 05, 2006 @11:40AM (#15472696)
    Having worked in the UK games mag field, I think a lot of it comes down to UK games journalists having less 'fear' of advertisers. If British journos think a game is a steaming pile of shit, they'll say exactly that, because editorial and advertising generally work as separate entities. The journalists don't get any commission from the space that advertising sells, so they don't see any need to pull punches if the product sucks. (In fact, I'd say there's often a degree of mutual dislike between editorial and advertising, because editorial see advertising as interfering in the content of their magazine, and ads think that editorial's big mouth will cost them money if they annoy clients.)

    Because there's so much competition between the UK mags (the lower cost of entry to the market means we have a lot more of them than the US), any mag that regularly bumps up its scores to suck up to advertisers will be spotted pretty quickly and lose trust with its readers. Giving a 9 to a game that the other mags are giving 6 or 7 can be forgiven as personal preference on the part of the reviewer - once. If it happens four or five times an issue, it'll be noticed. (Except where the mag in question is an 'official' one, where people still buy it no matter how inflated the review scores are...)

  • by iocat ( 572367 ) on Monday June 05, 2006 @12:02PM (#15472924) Homepage Journal
    Newsflash: US magazines are ALWAYS 50% ads. That's the goal of the magazine. I used to be the editor of a videogame magazine, so I know something about this subject.

    In the US, magazine distribution is really inefficient -- there are hundreds of thousands of places to buy magazines, and to reach the realtively small number of people interested in a nich publication (games, fishing, knitting, etc), you need to print way more copies than you can possibly sell. Selling through 20 or 22% of your newstand copies is considered good, and hitting 30% or higher is fantastic. That means you're wasting the cost of 70% of your newstand distribution, which is a lot. At best, your newsstand sales might break even.

    Then you have subscriptions. The $12.99 or $19.99 you pay for a year of a magazine doesn't come close to paying for the printing and shipping. It's a total loss leader. What it does, however, is ensure a certain level of readership for the magazine (vs. the uncertainty of newstand/retail sales).

    This number of readers -- the guarenteed circulation -- can then be shown to potential advertisers, along the lines of "hey, look, a quarter-million people subscribe to this magazine! Our research shows they each spend $600 a year on software! You should advertise, because this is your core audience." And then (hopefully) you sell some ads. Advertising is the *only* place a typical US magazine makes any money at all. This means the magazines have to be advertiser focused. Not by giving good reviews to advertisers' products (in six years in the biz, I never saw that kind of influence from advertising happen, even once -- editors typically have no clue what ads will be in the magazine until the see it come back from the printer), but by trying to appeal to a broad audience that makes their numbers look good to advertisers. Different magazines have different ways to accomplish this (EGM by being very broad and inclusive, PSM by being hardcore, etc), obviously, but the goal -- at some level -- is to being pretty advertising friendly as a product.

    The size of the magazine, monthly, is basically set by the number of ads. You have a minimum book size (say 96 pages), and if you sell more than 50% ads (say you sell 60 pages), you may go up a form (usually 12 or 16 pages, depending on the printer) to say, 112. But the goal is to keep the ad/edit ratio pretty close to 50%. In lean months (like the summer), you may be at the minimum size, but have many more edit pages than ad pages, and in the fat months (leading up to Xmas), you may have way more ad pages than edit pages (although you'll likely have double or triple the total editorial pages you had in the lean months).

    In the UK, by contrast, lossy subscriptions are less well known, and the smaller total size of the market means that newsstand sales can be managed much more effectively. A magazine may sell 80-90% of its retail issues, making newsstand profitable. This reduces the reliance on advertisers, and means magazines don't have to try to be "mainstream" to be as advertiser-friendly as possible. This means magazines that are much more niche than could be successful in the US (such as Edge, RetroGamer, Scootering) can do very well.

    That all said, magazines are a fanastic bargain, and given that the ads are really very targeted, I don't mind seeing them in games mags, the same way I enjoy looking at the ads in car mags or other technology magazines.

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern