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View Full Version : How to re-invent the VG magazine industry..



tmc
12-05-2007, 08:13 AM
In response to my recent thread 'the most respected VG publication', many people have the opinion that games magazines are not what they used to be. Maybe this is a case of rose coloured glasses but others have stated that it could also be due to content being more accesible online, more up to date and with the advantages that online coverage brings - i.e. moving images.

It would make sense that this has at least affected the publication industry to a lesser or greater extent.

Now assuming that people will always want a tactile, paper magazine to bring to the toilet or whatever, my question is this:

How do we reinvent VG magazines to provide people with something unique?

My ideas are as follows:

Cut out reviews, controversial for a vg magazine i know but you can't compete with 92 user reviews on 'X' site. Furthermore, less and less people turn to magazines for their sole opinion on whether to part with their hard earned money, and how many people trust reviews of corporate magazines these days anyway?

Cover the main news stories but not in an 'Exclusive way' more in a retrospective contemplative tone. News stories online will always beat your exclusives.

The main bulk of the magazine should be a collection of editorials, comments or esseys from guest writers. Each would cover wide ranging subjects accross the whole spectrum of the industry and if a writer wishes to cover his experiences with a single game on his page then so be it.

The magazine would be text heavy with very little pictures as the magazine isn't trying to convey how game 'x' looks anymore.

the cost would come down because fewer exclusives are needed to be bought and ultimately the magazine would provide some good reading on the subject we love from all angles that won't require a look at video on the net or to see if the score stacks up.

what do you think and whats your idea to reinvent the VG magazine industry?

ZackyH
12-05-2007, 09:24 AM
How about only publishing ads for stuff gamers would probably buy but never advertise an actual video game? That way unless a soft drink company is pushing some game it'll be less likely that a game company will use its ad money as influence on the reviews or news stories, etc.

Poofta!
12-05-2007, 10:01 AM
holy crap, i disagree with pretty much EVERYTHING you said lol.

but don't get me wrong, I'm technically on your side anyway, i do think magazine should be reinvented, but just not like this.

i agree with one point: more opinion columns but only by industry insiders and generally people with above average IQ and good writing experience. i don't want 95% of anyone who posts on these forums putting anything to print (no offense, but we aren't exactly the most patient, understanding or open minded of types). i would also like to see game developers writing under an alias to prevent being fired by their employers!

personally, i rely on print magazine for reviews a lot more than anything posted online (save for people's opinions here), and i respect magazine ratings a helluva lot more than ign, gamespot etc. it is honest and brutal reviews that are needed to be encouraged (but not blatant rips on a game/company/developer, in other words no reviewers with an obvious chip on their shoulder). the following month can have a rating to last month's games as voted on by readers on the magazine's website.

as for stories, its not always about being exclusive, major stories are known pretty much the hour they occur (release/delay of game A or latest foolish move by company B). but most of the interesting stories on slashdot, kotaku and joystiq usually fly under the radar of all but the most dedicated of gamers/enthusiasts, and its more of those interesting less-known stories & topics that there should be more of.

i like pictures, but a LOT of what i see in magazines, blown up to even half a page looks like ass. theres no point in blowing up a ds or psp image to anything more than real size. also anytime you see pixels in a screenshot: its too big. but im definately for the text/words over images movement.

i think 5$ for a magazine is a good affordable price for everyone.

ZackyH: your comment is great. i completely agree: try to stay away from advertisements for games that gamers know about anyway, and anytime any company applies pressure for ANYTHING, its dropped instantly. gamers eat, drink, dress, party, drive, go on vacation, use pcs and go to work just like anyone (i believe this kind of magazine should be targeted at the college/post college crowd). and companies are always looking to reach their audience in as many ways possible. id rather see a an ad for a new indie movie, a new proffesional clothing line or a new interesting cruiseline much more than the latest EA game on the playstation.



i would LOVE to start up something like this with someone who knows a little about publications. contact me. i would be willing to do all i can to start up something. my pbackground: 22 college graduate, BS in civil engineering working as a Project Manager for Department of Environmental Protection (NYC). very high tech knowledge.

Dangerboy
12-05-2007, 11:10 AM
There could be a way around the ad issue; you simply create a contract that allows you to say whatever you want. There has to be something like this. I mean, I can open any newspaper, see a shitty review of said movie, and then flip to see a 2 page spread ad for said sucky movie. You never hear of repercussions and such, much less Ebert or Roeper being fired.

And what they need is a magazine that is more bulk, like a Tips and Tricks / Expert Gamer but on a higher scale. We sell squat when it comes to magazines, but strategy guides still sell very well. If you have a a magazine that's in-depth guides, and in-depth editorial, you'd have a pretty neat mag.

Jorpho
12-05-2007, 11:41 AM
Sounds a bit like a print version of Hardcore Gaming 101 (http://www.hg101.classicgaming.gamespy.com). I might buy that. I'd still want the pictures, though, small though they may be.

Nonetheless, magazines generally depress me, and there's no way you could publish a magazine with the equivalent of HG101's subtle, unobtrusive banner ads.

Wolfrider31
12-05-2007, 12:10 PM
A print version of HG101 would rock. That or the Escapist. This is where print magazines need to go to survive.

mailman187666
12-05-2007, 01:41 PM
if Sony, MS, and Nintendo published thier own magazines and had disks inside with more than movies and demos such as exclusive disk only content and mini games that aren't available on thier online services, I think that would generate more sales but then making the exclusive disks may cost the company more money than they could sell them for. Along side with inside info that gets released in the mag first. Or maybe just putting the publication on a CD as a PDF or something and forget the print all together. I don't know, its really hard to say. The times are a changin' I guess from what we all used to know (and love).

monkeysuit
12-05-2007, 06:43 PM
Take a cue from Famitsu. Done deal.

XYXZYZ
12-05-2007, 08:25 PM
One thing that repels me from magazines is all the fucking polybags. I don't give a second look to publishers who don't want me to see what's in their magazine until after I buy it. Every now and then you see an opened issue on the magazine stand, but I'm seeing less and less of them.

I'd sure be pissed off if I paid $7.00 for EGM to find out it's 95% ads.

Dangerboy
12-05-2007, 08:48 PM
don't give a second look to publishers who don't want me to see what's in their magazine until after I buy it.

That doesn't work for all cases. Many demo disc magazines started polybagging when they realized people were ganking the demo from the inner tray. So it was more anti-theft than anything.

ZackyH
12-05-2007, 10:02 PM
What I'd like to see is more coverage of Virtual Console, Playstation Network, and Xbox Live Arcade games. The PC freeware game scene would be cool as well. Maybe even detailed info on dev teams currently working on promising games for people to download. I know that the Xbox Live Arcade is covered some. The Playstation Network got covered a lot because of Everyday Shooter. However, I don't see VC stuff covered very much at all(Maybe it is in Nintendo Power but I don't read it so I don't know).

The homebrew scene would be interesting as well as info on the chiptune music scene and game art scenes.

Wolfrider31
12-05-2007, 11:27 PM
Take a cue from Famitsu. Done deal.

What does Famitsu do differently? I'm not that familiar with it apart from knowing its reputation.

monkeysuit
12-05-2007, 11:56 PM
What does Famitsu do differently? I'm not that familiar with it apart from knowing its reputation.


It's not necessarily what they do differently, it's what they do right. The reviews are honest and very respectable and you can tell their writers and contributors are very passionate about their industry. Famitsu is sort of the "mother brain" of an entire family of magazines. If I'm correct, they publish a separate one for each console under the same name. Really, their biggest draw is that they publish a new issue every week. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible here in the 'States due to the sheer size/population difference we have with Japan.

boatofcar
12-06-2007, 01:20 AM
Nintendo Power managed to stay ad-free throughout much of its life...why can't other magazines do the same?

Jorpho
12-06-2007, 07:57 AM
I daresay the world was a much kinder and gentler place during the time that it was felt that Nintendo Power could manage without ads, and with competition from other sources (especially the Internet) it would be difficult for any magazine to try that again. After all, even MAD sold out in the end.

theMot
12-07-2007, 12:14 AM
I think they have to get away from the whole news/previews/review/cheats thing.

Lets face it 99% of people who play games have some form of internet connection so they don't need a magazine for that content anymore.

We need stories of people's experiences with the games instead. Like instead of a review for say Bomberman lets have a Bomberman feature where someone has a big arse party or something with a keg and then tells us about the stories of the bomberman booz night or something.

Or you could have a feature when GTA 4 comes out where someone plays the game then goes out into the real world and steals a car or goes to a strip club and acts like the game character. :D What happend to suffering for your art!!!

We need a magazine that doesnt take itself too seriously. :)

monkeysuit
12-07-2007, 01:23 AM
Or you could have a feature when GTA 4 comes out where someone plays the game then goes out into the real world and steals a car or goes to a strip club and acts like the game character.

Jack Thompson would have a field day.

I'd really like to see a little more history in these magazines. Video game culture isn't a new thing anymore, it's very mainstream and has a really rich culture surrounding it, magazines should jump on this as much as they possibly can. How about when a new Grand Theft Auto or Street Fighter comes a long, we see featured stories on the previous games and sub-culture surrounding these franchises.

Ed Oscuro
12-07-2007, 01:33 AM
Take a cue from Famitsu. Done deal.
100000 pages of moe and h-games. YES

monkeysuit
12-07-2007, 01:35 AM
100000 pages of moe and h-games. YES

Not quite the approach I was looking at going in. LOL

Cryomancer
12-07-2007, 03:09 AM
Old nintendo power was awesome as they had great in-house artists (and bad ones, but hey) and GASP, promotional shit for long-time subscribers. The lack of ads helped too. Nowadays managazines are like 75% ads, and designed to flip to ad pages. Bullshit.

YoshiM
12-07-2007, 07:30 AM
Nowadays managazines are like 75% ads, and designed to flip to ad pages. Bullshit.

Well....it's not THAT bad, not like a Bride or some other woman's magazine. Just for S&G's I counted off the number of ads in an EGM. It was about 30 pages of ads to 60 pages of content, so 1/3 of the mag is ads. But then again, EGM ALWAYS had tons of ads, even with the 300 page monsters they used to publish. However since there wasn't an easier way to find out about games, I don't know how many gamers back then really cared. I sure didn't.

Julio III
12-07-2007, 08:44 AM
We need stories of people's experiences with the games instead. Like instead of a review for say Bomberman lets have a Bomberman feature where someone has a big arse party or something with a keg and then tells us about the stories of the bomberman booz night or something.


The old UK official Dreamcast magazine used to do this for games a few months after they reviewed it. They got around 4 people in a room, some reviewers, some guests, maybe some public and they played a few games and talked about them. It was quite interesting.


I always find the editorials/columns/essays etc in magazines the most interesting anyway. I believe thats what some of the magazines in the UK are doing at the moment, eg, Edge, gamesTM, RetroGamer.

Kejoriv
12-07-2007, 11:12 AM
After all, even MAD sold out in the end.
that was a sad dark day in my life.

Melf
12-07-2007, 02:27 PM
Nintendo Power managed to stay ad-free throughout much of its life...why can't other magazines do the same?

Doesn't Nintendo Power have the direct backing of Nintendo itself? As I understand it, the magazine is nothing more than a promotional tool for the company.


It's not necessarily what they do differently, it's what they do right. The reviews are honest and very respectable and you can tell their writers and contributors are very passionate about their industry.

I've heard lots of negative things about how Famitsu scores its reviews, so I wouldn't bet 100% on them being totally objective (but then, who is?).


Famitsu is sort of the "mother brain" of an entire family of magazines. If I'm correct, they publish a separate one for each console under the same name. Really, their biggest draw is that they publish a new issue every week. Unfortunately, this is almost impossible here in the 'States due to the sheer size/population difference we have with Japan.

I think it wouldn't work because Americans no longer really care about printed media. Many game magazines are having trouble generating ad revenue, and it's because publishers would rather put that money towards advertising online.

Ed Oscuro
12-07-2007, 02:49 PM
Old nintendo power was awesome as they had great in-house artists (and bad ones, but hey) and GASP, promotional shit for long-time subscribers. The lack of ads helped too. Nowadays managazines are like 75% ads, and designed to flip to ad pages. Bullshit.
Ads are necessary if you don't want to get paid for letting every crappy game off with a good review. What was NP's business model, anyway?

Jorpho
12-07-2007, 02:59 PM
Doesn't Nintendo Power have the direct backing of Nintendo itself? As I understand it, the magazine is nothing more than a promotional tool for the company.

And yet, they decided to start putting ads in anyway.

Melf
12-07-2007, 09:15 PM
That doesn't change anything. Sega Visions had ads all over the place and it was nothing more than a marketing tool. Nintendo Power just took much longer, that's all.

swlovinist
12-09-2007, 01:13 AM
I have been a game magazine collector for about 15 years now. I pretty much only subscribe to two(and a half more if you count VGC) now due to the quality of some mags going to the shitter(EGM). Times have changed indeed. Magazines need to go to disc with a slim DVD case. Magazines need to have more articles and reflections, not ads for stupid ass mobile phone crap. I counted about 28 pages of mobile phone crap in the latest Xbox OXM...are they a mobile phone game mag now? Completely unacceptable if I was to be a subscriber. I am not due to this crap. The internet has replace alot of what I used game mags for, and it frankly does a better job at informing me on games, cheats, info. I would rather subscribe to a fanzine or retromag and just get my current game stuff online. I do want to say that Game Informer has impressed me this year with what I feel is a good balance of content and interview commentary.

Ze_ro
12-09-2007, 04:04 AM
Personally, I still enjoy video game magazines. I subscribe to both OXM and Nintendo Power, and I usually read through them entirely every month. I enjoy OXM quite a bit, while I find Nintendo Power to be more immature than I'd like (does a "kiddie magazine-reader" demographic even exist to pander to these days?) I like being able to look at screen shots of games without having to sit in front of the computer (I do that for long enough as it is!), plus I can see content about games that I probably wouldn't have bothered to look up online.


how many people trust reviews of corporate magazines these days anyway?
I think by this point, anyone who subscribes to video game magazines has learned to take their scores with a grain of salt. You don't read through 12 issues a year without realizing a few trends in the the review scores. As for non-subscribers, I think people are getting more cynical all the time, to the point where I think they know bias when they see it, even without reading through a years worth of content.


The main bulk of the magazine should be a collection of editorials, comments or esseys from guest writers. Each would cover wide ranging subjects accross the whole spectrum of the industry and if a writer wishes to cover his experiences with a single game on his page then so be it.
I think the difficulty here would be actually getting knowledgeable people. Anyone who has anything worth saying will probably say it online in order to get the exposure. By this point, they know EGM is a small audience. Paying for quality, exclusive editorials would likely get pretty expensive.

Honestly, I think pretty much any attempt at resurrecting magazines is probably doomed. No matter how you change the content, the fact is that the new generation won't bother looking at it, even if it's worth while. I think magazines need to be more active in promoting themselves, in order to inform people that they actually exist. Aside from OXM, Nintendo Power, and EGM, I'm not even sure what's on the news stands now, because I never look there (Is GamePro still around? I assume there's some Playstation-centric magazine, though if I remember correctly, OPM died recently).

As for stuff that I would specifically like:
Longer Reviews - Specifically of less popular games that people might not know about. In the last OXM issue, they have a 6-page review of Rock Band. That's great, but I think people already know beforehand whether Rock Band is the kind of game they'd like without reading 6 pages about it...The same issue split a page between Every Extend Extra Extreme, Omega Five, and Rocketmen: Axis of Evil, with only 5 pictures in total. I honestly didn't get a very good feel as to how the gameplay in any of the games worked (except E4, mostly because I own the PSP version), let alone enough to decide if it might be something I'd enjoy. Similarly, the latest issue of Nintendo Power has one page with 5 reviews crammed into it. That's just not enough information.
More Second Opinions - I remember one of the older magazines (Game Players?) used to routinely do this thing where another editor would have a small box in the review that gave their opinion of the game. Why don't magazines do this anymore? Surely someone else in the office played enough of the game to toss in a paragraph or two. How about showing some reader reviews outside of the "letters to the editor" section?
More Classic Stuff - OXM always has an article called "2000 pennies or less" where they talk about an old game that's available for cheap now. That's exactly the kind of info I like! Most of the time the game they show is one that has been forgotten about, but is well worth the money. I'd like to see them show more info about old Xbox games that happen to be backwards compatible with the 360, especially ones that I might not have heard about. Too bad the article in question is rarely more than a third of a page long. Nintendo Power has a similar article where they re-review an old game (not necessarily one on the Virtual Console either)... but again, it's only a page, and it's almost always something that was popular. They also show a list of virtual console games, but the descriptions are ridiculously short, especially for unpopular games.
More Strategy - Nintendo Power used to be AMAZING at this, showing tons of maps for games, with notes as to where all the powerups were and all kinds of other information on actually PLAYING the games. Since then, NP seems to have spun all this off into a seperate strategy guide business, which is a shame. GameFAQs is nice and all, but having pictures really gives magazines an edge here. If I ran a magazine, I'd try to work out a deal with the folks at Brady Games or Prima to reprint portions of their strategy guides inside the magazine. I'm amazed that NP doesn't re-run some of their old 80's NES strategy pages for the virtual console users.
Less Rumors - Can we just admit defeat here? There's no way a magazine can compete with the internet in this area, it's just not fast enough. The only people who benefit from the rumor sections are people who don't pay attention to this stuff on the internet (though I suppose it could be argued that this is the target market for magazines). Instead, how about interviewing developers or doing some investigating work and replacing rumors with facts (or at least "no comment").
More Exclusive Content - OXM quite often has demos on their discs before they're available on Xbox Live. Beautiful Katamari was one such game, and I guarantee you this sold a few magazines to people who otherwise wouldn't have bothered. They've also got OXM Universe, which is a pseudo-game that isn't available anywhere else. There was also one issue where they had some of the downloadable content for Oblivion on the disc... stuff that normally would have cost you money off XBL was available for free with the magazine. They also usually have exclusive gamerpics or themes, though that's pretty minor. This is the kind of stuff that magazines need in order to bring in some new readers, and hopefully keep the existing ones. Of course, this also involves pissing off non-magazine folks who are annoyed that they can't play the demo because OXM paid to have it held back.
One recurring theme I've noticed is that magazines heavily favor the future and forget the past. More than half the magazine is previews, and the actual reviews are an afterthought... once the game is out, it's old hat, and no one cares about it? The latest Nintendo Power has a 1-page review of Super Mario Galaxy... anyone want to try to guess how many pages they devoted to it before it was even released? I suppose it's the magazines way of trying to stay on the cutting edge, but I think it's a mistake. Magazines also spend far too much time talking about the best games while ignoring the rest (which sometimes may be worth a play even if it didn't get a 9/10). I realize most of the kids that they want to attract probably only want the newest of the new and the best of the best, and that I'm not normal in my video game preferences, but hey, I'm a subscriber, and they want me to keep buying, right?


I counted about 28 pages of mobile phone crap in the latest Xbox OXM...are they a mobile phone game mag now? Completely unacceptable if I was to be a subscriber.
Yeah, that was pretty brutal. They had a similar (though I don't think quite as long) cell phone section in some of their previous magazines too. I think I've gotten to the point where I can mentally block out advertisements now (thank you, internet)... I often skip over pages and then look a second time thinking that I missed something when it turns out I just mindlessly flipped past an ad. 28 pages in a row was ridiculous though. I sure hope they got a lot of money for that, because I bet it pissed off a lot of people.

I'd love to see the amount of advertising in magazines toned down, but the economics of the magazine industry just won't allow for it. Unless readership goes up, we pretty much just have to live with it.

--Zero

monkeysuit
12-09-2007, 01:32 PM
Great post HalfJapanese. You made a lot of really great points.


You know, I will say that I'm very excited with what EGM and 1up are doing this month for their exclusive SFIV information. First they are releasing just a taste of what you can look forward to reading in EGM on 1up.com to entice the fans, and then a week after, releasing the magazine with all of the information available.

I know that they have had some controversy in securing that information, but that is neither here nor there. At least they are trying to do something unique in a sea of similarity. Combining an online network with their monthly magazine is a step in the right direction. In this day and age, the online community, especially the demographic that these magazines are appealing to, is always going to beat out the print world. The magazine may not be up to par, but I believe the system that they are going after is where the future is.