“Oh my god, what have I got myself into?” The inside story of the golden age of video game magazines

Speaking to gaming magazine veterans for this feature, one theme comes up again and again: that in the ’80s and early ’90s there was a special kind of magic that was stifled by gaming magazines, like we’ll never again. watch. “They have a certain tone and style that’s very period,” says Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall, former editor of Zzap!64 and Mean Machines. “I mean, you know, Mean Machines, I don’t think we can get away with saying some of the things we used to say these days.” Matthew Castle, who was the last editor of Official Nintendo Magazine when the publication folded in 2014, says his biggest regret is not getting into video game magazines earlier, in his teens. Prayed. “I read a lot of old Super Play magazines when I joined Future, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is all so good. Why didn’t I spend my pocket money on that instead of Boglins or what? to be?

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Officially licensed magazines like the Nintendo Magazine System (which went through several name changes before ending up in Future Publishing simply as Official Nintendo Magazine) rose to prominence throughout the ’90s and beyond. Interestingly, several publishers simultaneously had “official” and “unofficial” magazines covering the same format, such as Sega Magazine (1994) and Mean Machines Sega on EMAP, Xbox World (2003) and Official Xbox Magazine (2001) on Future, and PSM2. (2000) and Official UK PlayStation 2 Magazine (2000), also from Future. The original incarnation of the latter in particular – Official UK PlayStation Magazine (1995) – was a huge success for the publisher, its phenomenal sales probably having a lot to do with the generous demo disc that graced the cover each month.

Gradually, over the next two decades, “unofficial” monoformat magazines
be almost completely eliminated from the market. Matthew Castle saw both sides of the divide as the editor of the unofficial NGamer (which evolved, through various name changes, from 1992’s Super Play) and later as the editor of Official Nintendo Magazine. But when

NGamer went out of business in 2012, initially reluctant to sail in officially licensed waters. “In my head, you know, I was the ‘unofficial Nintendo magazine for life’. We were the same company, but they were our rivals. I didn’t really want to be a part of it, I didn’t necessarily think about their worldview.” coincided with ours, but I wanted a job.

However, he says that even though the Nintendo license meant he was more limited
In what he was able to do with Official Nintendo Magazine, the Wii U lean years were actually something of a blessing in disguise, freeing up writers to fill page after page with gloriously absurd features thanks to the lack of new games on them. what to write Somehow the anarchic spirit of magazines like YS and Amiga Power resurfaced for a moment. “I think ONM’s last year is pretty strong,” says Matthew. “There were things where I thought, ‘There’s no way Nintendo is still reading this magazine.’ There were some weird alternative Christmas carols that made fun of the former head of Nintendo Europe and things like that. There were a number of things that we put out where we then I had nightmares that I was going to get fired. We were close several times: he made a joke about McDonald’s, which almost surprised me because they had a Happy Meal deal with McDonald’s.

(Image credit: Future)

And so we come to the present. Over the last decade and a bit, even the most powerful magazines have fallen in their struggle to compete with the migration of readers online. C&VG closed its print version in 2004, living a half-life as an online-only publication until 2014. Official Nintendo Magazine folded in 2014 after Nintendo pulled print magazines. Play ended its giveaway in 2016. GamesMaster survived long after its eponymous TV show was suspended, but finally succumbed to the inevitable in 2018, after 25 years of publishing. Multi-Format GamesTM from Imagine Publishing, former headquarters of Retro Gamer himself, went out of business around the same time, after 16 years on the market.

But there are still some holdouts. The Official Xbox and PlayStation Magazines
are still carving out a niche at WH Smith, and PC Gamer has been published continuously since 1993. Last year even saw the launch of a new gaming magazine in the form of indie-focused Wireframe, while tween-focused mags like 110 % Games thrive on the back shelves of newsstands. And then there’s Edge, which earlier this year celebrated becoming the UK’s longest-running gaming magazine. May everyone continue for a long time!

This feature is taken from Retro Gamer magazine and can save up to 57% on a print and digital subscription subscribing today

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