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May 29th, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · No Comments · Uncategorized

There are lots of reasons to criticize Game Informer, Gamestop’s pet magazine.

Subscriptions are often pushed on consumers (It’s the world’s “#1 Computer and Video Game Magazine” because of its brick-and-mortar discount, not its editorial chops), the reviews are usually quite short and descriptive, and it uses some .25 based scoring system that is even more ridiculous than a one-hundred point scoring system, exaggerating the fineness of their game quality antennae.

Of course, these sorts of things can be said about many magazines. GI is no better or worse than any of the “official” console magazines. Nothing says fair and balanced coverage like the word “official” in your title.

But Kotaku has held up Game Informer’s inability to keep up with console naming conventions as evidence that the entire print magazine world is irrelevant. GI calls the upcoming Nintendo machine the Revolution and not the Wii. Therefore, the print world can’t keep up with the fast paced world of game marketing.

This implies that it is the job of magazines to keep up to the minute with news and information. Publishing lag means that the print world would have to stay ahead of the news to compete with gaming websites and blogs. Plus, the prevalence of review websites means that readers can find out about the latest games the day they hit the shelves and not wait a month to see what PC Gamer thinks about them.

The tension between the internet and print gaming press has already led to some changes. Computer Gaming World has changed its game review policy, ditching scores altogether, in favor of more detail analyses of particular games. The magazine covers fewer games than it used to, but in greater depth, leaving the mass coverage to its sister site 1Up.com. Some articles refer the reader to the website for the complete story.

PCGamer’s website is mostly editor blogs and a place for their user forum. The podcast is an attempt to supplement their magazine. Parent company Future Publishing has recently launched Games Radar as a review site, so it will have an online presence to compete with rival Ziff Davis.

Computer Games Magazine has the smallest online presence, with a website apparently only tangentially connected to the magazine. You can subscribe there and complain about the Vanguard beta codes in the mostly desolate forum.

Each of the magazines offers content that is not available online, but not because it can’t be. CGW’s editorials and features could be done online, as could those of the other magazines. Still, magazines persist, and they probably will into the near future.

In my house, magazines are still an event. Every month they arrive and the house stops while me or my wife read. Even though it is possible to write a long feature for a website – Gamespot does it regularly – it is still much more comfortable to read them in paper form. We call our internet windows “browsers”, but no gaming website is really set up for casual reading. You go there with a purpose, not to leaf through until something strikes you. Magazines make it easier for me to find bylines – there are some reviewers I will read even if I have no interest in the game itself.

Blogs will never replace magazines, especially if they print every rumor that comes down the pike. The peril of infinite space and the demand for constant content makes many of the more popular blogs, including Slashdot and Kotaku, of minimal utility for me. I only visit if Gametab gives me a headline worth clicking on.

Print irrelevant? Not for me.


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