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Games magazines on the way out?

Games magazines on the way out?

Could games magazines face extinction? It certainly seems so...

For a long time now PC magazines have been slowly losing readers and, according to 1Up's Simon Cox, the medium may face utter extinction soon.

Speaking to GameSpot about the closure of the American Games for Windows magazine, Cox said that the continued loss of readers and revenue - or "Dollars and eyes as Cox put it - meant that games magazines face an uncertain future.

True, the news isn't all that surprising or shocking - the fact that websites like bit-tech offer the same news on a free and constantly updated basis has destroyed much of the market for commercial, monthly print formats. It is a little shocking though to hear Cox discuss how established magazines like EGM, Nintendo Power and PC Gamer may also face a cull soon.

In fact, Cox's attitude wasn't that the magazines might face extinction, but that it is only a matter of time before the magazines close as there is only so long that they can continue to be supported by subscribers.

One wonders what that will mean for the online games journalists when the print medium suddenly does collapse and the market is flooded with unemployed writers. Do you still read games magazines, or do you rely on bit-tech for all your news? Let us know in the forums.

35 Comments

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Tomm 14th April 2008, 11:38 Quote
Good content that you can't get anywhere else is the only way forward. With other magazines, such as Snowboarding or Mountain Biking, they still seem to do OK since they have lots of opinion, interesting articles and professional pictures that you don't see on the internet. With computer game magazines it's perhaps hard to see how this will happen - most games will be reviewed online before the mags hit the shelves and there's only so many ways you can write a review.

I haven't bought a PC magazine for years. I have the internet...
Paradigm Shifter 14th April 2008, 11:44 Quote
The few mags I've had a glance at in the shops recently have been more expensive than I remember them being a few years ago, and markedly thinner. And they have a lot more adverts in than they used to, as well. Excuse me if I don't like paying more for less content, when I can get it online for free (and frequently better proof-read, too...)

Also, while my net connection isn't as fast as I'd like it to be, the reason for cover discs has long since vanished, as demos, patches, trial software etc can all be had as and when I want them. Also, the 'full' software on cover discs has been less than thrilling... or perhaps it's just that the software I use the most I already own, so I don't need alternatives... and a lot of useful stuff is now Open Source anyway...
CardJoe 14th April 2008, 11:56 Quote
I have to say that games mags have annoyed me a lot lately - I was going to buy one this weekend to read, but decided against it when I saw the price. Mags are now thinner, with more advertising and poorer quality paper and often without coverdiscs - but if anything the cost has risen.

The problem as I see it though isn't a matter of having better content - the reality is that many games journos working in Print know that they are flogging a dead medium and are trying to get out - that better content is therefore available online.

I am very biased here though, but having worked in print and online I know that online is better. Anything a magazine prints is at least six weeks old by the time you read it, whereas I can do an interview or review right now and write it up straight away, liveblogging if needs be.

Plus, I get really sick of embargoes at games events limiting me to keeping quiet for four or five weeks "so the magazines have a chance to catch up".
steveo_mcg 14th April 2008, 12:30 Quote
I still tend to read computer mags of all types, i quite like chilling on a Sunday afternoon with a magazine and red dwarf on in the background. One niche the web isn't going to fill soon is what to read when travelling, books are fine but i prefer a mag on the train, plane, hanging round airports or getting driven round, most of these are areas where your iphone/netbook is only going to get scetchy coverage or places where you'd like to conserve battery since its also your mp3 player. Although i admit to buying less lately.
lewchenko 14th April 2008, 12:31 Quote
In the UK, there are some excellent print magazines still available (and some terrible ones)

We have the newly launched PC Gaming Magazine which is for PC users only. Its rich on content and its unique angle is that is has a huge MMO section each month. Decent value for money as well. Good mix of all areas relevant to PC users. Its not 'thin' either like some of them!

I agree with people who say reviews and news will come out earlier on the net. That doesnt bother me at all. I like print magazines for the editorials, opinions, and unique features like developer and studio interviews which they seem to do very well at.

Then of course there are the benefits of being able to take a magazine into the bath or onto the train. I must admit though - dont bother with a DVD/CD on the cover. 99% of the time I dont use them and they are a waste. The exception to the rule is PC PLUS magazines which is better than most.

Other UK magazines :

PC Format - Average. Tries to cover hardware and gaming but masters none. One plus point is they sometimes have the most stunning women on the cover LOL! I do buy it though, but its not the best.

PC Zone - I avoid this one like the plague now. Its thin, and previously Ive skimmed through it too quickly for it to feel like good value for money. Its expensive too.

PC Gamer - Another 'thin' and 'expensive' one to avoid. Compare Gamer and Zone to PC Gaming and its night and day.

GAMES (TM) - A good magazine that focusses on games across ALL platforms. This is ideal for those that own multiple consoles. A good mix of studio reviews and opinion editorials. Good value for money too. I buy it every month.

EDGE - Very similar to GAMES (TM) to be honest. Slightly more expensive and probably not as good, but similar content. I often buy it.

Custom PC - Oriented towards people who know and love their PC hardware. They do cover a small number of games reviews, but their editorial is top notch, and their hardware reviews are the best there is in print. I subscribe to this one.

PC PRO - Its OK. It's more serious that all the others, and discusses software and hardware reviews, plus has a business section which bores me to death. The editorials opinion pages are excellent though. I used to subscribe, but dont anymore. I often still buy it though.

360 - Simply called the 360. Its the best 360 dedicated magazine out of all the 360 magazines and often is only £3. Its more oriented towards adults too - not the l337 kids out there.

PC PLUS - Simply the best magazine if your interests in PC cross technical science , programming, maths, or productive software use. Often they have special features about technology (processor roadmaps, how it works etc) and projects like a laser data transmitter, robots, and even a star trek laser gun. Its not cheap, but it is excellent.

I dont think the magazine market will disappear. It will shrink, and the junk out there like Computer Shopper, PCW, and those basic computer mags will all die off.
oasked 14th April 2008, 12:50 Quote
I bought Edge last month as it had a really good article on GTA 4 (an extended interview with Dan Houser), but other than that I haven't bought a magazine since 2005. Before then, the previous magazine was in 2003. :D
liratheal 14th April 2008, 13:26 Quote
I haven't bought a magazine (Or any printed material other than books) since I started using the internet all those years ago. Why bother, when like the article states, it's all floating around the net for free?
Robotrix 14th April 2008, 13:47 Quote
The only problem I can see with magazines going extinct is that I know some people (excluding myself) like to have something to read when they just so happen to be sitting on the toilet.
CardJoe 14th April 2008, 13:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robotrix
The only problem I can see with magazines going extinct is that I know some people (excluding myself) like to have something to read when they just so happen to be sitting on the toilet.

That's what comics are for.
Jordan Wise 14th April 2008, 13:49 Quote
used to buy pc format, but the game reviews aren't as good as joes and the interesting modding they do has little to no explaination of how they did it. bit-tech excels as it covers everything, and at a good standard, but the main thing that sets bit-tech above the rest is the columns, particularly the later ones by developers. keep them coming thick and fast please!
Veles 14th April 2008, 13:52 Quote
Not bought a gaming mag in a while either, don't see the point, they don't offer anything I can't get online.
CardJoe 14th April 2008, 14:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan Wise
used to buy pc format, but the game reviews aren't as good as joes

I used to do the games reviews for PC Format... :|

Well, ok, that's a huge exageration. I did some freelance reviews for them a handful of times. I used to really like PC Format and it's a shame that so many people have left it since then. I can actually remember reading PC Gamer reviews when I was a kid, looking at the the staff bios for folks like Kieron Gillen and deciding that I wanted to be like them.

Then I forgot all about it for 15 years and started working to be a novelist instead, but I did finally come back to the fold.
Gushy 14th April 2008, 14:11 Quote
I stopped my subscriptions to a couple of PC games mags years ago and now subscribe to one review site so that I don't see adverts etc. and get faster downloads. It's a lot cheaper than a magazine, and given that a lot of the sites are US based, it's even cheaper given the £/$ rate at the moment.

The decision wasn't financial, it's down to content really, and I don't feel that any of the games magazines have any content that would justify the price. In contrast I subscribe to several other magazines (hardware, linux, web dev) because of the content even though I could get most of the information off the net. At the end of the day nothing beats having a physical mag to read, it's just that games mags tend to be pretty crap.
BigD79 14th April 2008, 14:12 Quote
I sub to EDGE, have done for a few years (cheaper to sub). They do have some great in-depth articles (as mentioned the GTA one was great, and the Farcry 2 one the month before was really interesting not started on the new ‘un) and also much smaller titbits. But as Joe mentioned I have read stuff and thought to myself that I somehow already know about this and realised that I’ve seen it on-line months before.
Mags offer a different experience for the reader. Sitting down at a computer screen allday at work (just a small amount of bit-tech reading, honest IT police!!) and then again when I’m gaming at home. Printed media gives my eyes a break from a monitor. I still love to leaf through a Sunday paper all week, yet I can get all the news and most of the info online.
With out a doubt mags (and I guess most printed media) are an endangered species. Some will die but those few magazines that are left will have to evolve, and that can only be good for the reader.
I wonder how many readers mags still have? And could their eventual abandonment of paper have effects on online content?
DriftCarl 14th April 2008, 14:18 Quote
I read bit-tech new stories every day, quick reference, searchable, taking part in (nearly) live discussion, it beats magazines that cost money, often out of date with the news, hard to remember where that article that you need was and comes out once a month but its read within a day.
MrWillyWonka 14th April 2008, 14:44 Quote
Compared to magazines of other interests you will find that gaming magazines are aimed at people sitting on computers a lot, people sitting on computers a lot usually have 24/7 Internet access in which they can easily get the same thing online than in a magazine.

Other Interests such as cycling magazines (not that I read them) does not necessary imply that the reader sits on the computer a lot which may explain why they aren't declining so much. It's not just games magazines but all magazines and even newspapers are having a fall in readers all because of the Internet (although not as badly).
Zurechial 14th April 2008, 15:20 Quote
I used to buy PCZone religiously, but the quality of the magazine just dropped significantly over the years while the price continued to rise - I haven't been able to justify buying an issue of PCZ in about 3 years now, and like others have said, the usefulness of cover discs falls dramatically with a broadband net connection.

I keep all of the old issues and cover discs though, for nostalgia and memorabilia of my gaming childhood.

Occasionally, though, I still check the PCZ website for gaming news simply because bit-tech just doesn't have enough gaming news to satisfy me, which is understandable given that bit-tech isn't a gaming-only site.
Even then, bit-tech often has news that PCZ and other sites don't have..
Faulk_Wulf 14th April 2008, 15:21 Quote
I dont' really read gaming magazines, but I wouldn't give up my subscription to Maximum PC Magazine. While the products they review might be a month old by the time I read them. (I got an issue lamenting the lack of an iPhone SDK the same day it was revealed / released online.) But their how-to guides for assembling computers, finding the right kit, and other how-to's are very imformative and useful. Sure I --could-- Google all the info up, and yes, Bit-Tech and other sites do have a vast majority of this kind of information up. But its nice to not always have to boot my computer to learn something, and the modding instruction are especially nice since the computer isn't going to be running while I upgrade it. ( :P ) All in all though, that is the only magazine (of ANY kind) that I subscribe to.

Unrelated: Has Bit-Tech ever thought of developing its own magazine?
salesman 14th April 2008, 16:09 Quote
Bull. Not going to happen. He mine as well say that all magazine will die for the same reason. And I haven't stopped reading game magazines just because i can get it free. Bull.
badders 14th April 2008, 16:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by CardJoe
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robotrix
The only problem I can see with magazines going extinct is that I know some people (excluding myself) like to have something to read when they just so happen to be sitting on the toilet.

That's what comics are for.

No, That's what PSP's are for.

Nothing better than reading one of your articles while I'm otherwise engaged, Joe.
naokaji 14th April 2008, 17:58 Quote
the market for them will keep shrinking, they most likely wont go completly extinct though...

personally I havent bought any print magazine in years, why should I? the same stuff can be had online (often even on the website of the mag it self).
Besides, by the time they come out the info is long outdated because I read about it weeks ago on the web.
On top of that, they have just as many ads as websites that are free.
themax 14th April 2008, 18:27 Quote
I still like to read an EGM or GameInformer once in a while but the information is almost always outdated. There is no incentive to pay for a subscription when so many sites offer "exclusive" and sometimes shady methods of breaking news on industry trends. I want to place the blame on sites like NeoGAF and blogs like Kotaku/Joystiq who hides behind their journalistic privelage while breaking news meant to have an embargo (or not meant to be known yet while deals are worked on it's coverage by mags IE: Home).

As juicy as a hot GTAIV exclusive might be, I guarantee you someone will "leak" it to a blog and then it's all over the net. Hell I knew just about all there was to know about Resistance 2 before GameInformer's "exclusive" on it went to press. Same with SSBB, and GTAIV with their respective magazines that covered it. Also with websites like Gamespot and IGN (not everyone's favorites but still) you can get videos of gameplay, which says alot more than touched up screenshots in a mag and for free I might add.
HourBeforeDawn 14th April 2008, 20:24 Quote
we can blame Bit-Tech for the death of PC Magazines =p

no really I got my recent Maximum PC mag and they were talking about stuff I read here a month ago lol so ya magazines will have to go digital but on the plus side they will make more money and have less overhead granted a lot more people will be fired but it will be better for the environment ^_^
chrisb2e9 14th April 2008, 21:25 Quote
I dont buy mags or even look at them in a store because the info is outdated by the time I see the mag.
fathazza 14th April 2008, 22:22 Quote
£6 for a mag with a coverdisc takes the mickey tbh. I do occasionally buy the odd mag, usually for a train journey but thats about it.

as for custompc it often seems to me when i read it that they are basically summarising content theyve read online and not bothered to actually think for themselves about what they are writing...
sotu1 14th April 2008, 22:38 Quote
Prices rise because of inflation, let's be fair. Let's face it, nothing ever goes down in price. unless it's tesco vs asda baked bean wars...

anyhoo, as much as i like bit tech, i still find the maturity and quality of the articles here unable to much up to truly great publications, like edge or custom PC. And the fact that bit-tech can supply me with only a few articles a day doesn't quite match up to the comfort of having a decent wedge of paper between my fingers and thumbs. Oh, and magazines (good ones like edge/custom pc) are beautiful things to look at.

Granted there is a load of crap out there, but some of it is worth the premium. At the end of it, i still don't think that the authority of the web is quite there yet. There's a lot of second rate websites, more so than magazines, and it's that quality which i crave.

i think that saying magazines are going to die is like saying CDs, newspapers or books will die because of the net. not true. Simply a matter of a limited market share being spread very thin across multiple mediums.
DXR_13KE 14th April 2008, 23:42 Quote
its evolution.... and if games magazines were covered by the RIAA or any other form of mafia system then there would be lawsuits against almost everyone..... but that would be insane.
KimKaze 15th April 2008, 00:00 Quote
There will be a market for bespoke, exclusive content that is written by trusted industry types in print form for some time to come, I think. Newspapers are still very much with us, and we've had second by second news on radio, tv and now the net for a very long time. So long as they are done well, they can survive but the golden age of the free and easy ride is surely over.

However, I do think that many magazines will have to close, simply because there will be less readers and more pick up and have a glance readers, promoting a cheaper, thinner but good quality publication containing exclusive content by trusted names. When you're on the train or dashing around, nobody wants to pull out a lap top however thin it is, and pay to go wi fi at McDonalds. Yuk.
yodasarmpit 15th April 2008, 00:26 Quote
Changing times, that's all, evolve or die.

As Joe says, a mag is written anything up to 6 weeks before release so the information is already out of date by the time it goes to print, plus on the net you can actually discuss with the journo the content of the article in semi real time. How can a magazine compete.


Similar to hazza the last mag I bought was at the airport on the way to a flight.
KimKaze 15th April 2008, 00:29 Quote
There are a lot of flights, trains and buses every day and millions of people on them. Most of those have more money than I do, and some even have alittle more money than sense ;)

Mags will continue sure enough...just cut down, only the very best and they won't be able to charge silly prices for them. Not for news, but for views, opinions and articles containing trusted, tried views.
willyolio 15th April 2008, 03:25 Quote
i haven't read a PC magazine for a decade.
Cthippo 15th April 2008, 06:31 Quote
I used to read Maximum PC and CPU (Computer Power User) pretty regularly, but once I went to linux they bacame less and less relevant to me. Also, it was like $15 to get the two mags, and it took me all of half an hour to devour them. Not worth it from a value standpoint.
Elz 15th April 2008, 09:38 Quote
I recently cancelled my subscription to PCZONE, partially because I have too much else to read every month/week, and partly because of the writing which, although better than most, is still a little lacking in sophistication for my taste (this is also reflected in how they actually review games, but I think that's a problem with almost all gaming mags).

EDGE, on the other hand, is brilliant. High production values and high quality writing and analysis. I have a subscription. I haven't looked at Games TM yet basically because it just looks like it's trying to be the same thing as EDGE, which is great - let's have more magazines like this! - but I already have EDGE :)

I still look at the internet (obviously, I'm here on this site). But for me, there's nothing like a printed version of anything. If I find a particularly good article on the net I'd much rather print it out and go sit down on a comfy sofa with a good coffee to read it.
kenco_uk 15th April 2008, 12:16 Quote
I used to buy Edge religiously. I had issue 1 to 120, or thereabouts. I also bought PC Gamer for a couple of years or so and loved the amount of demos on the disk. I effectively gave up buying mags when I got broadband.

On the very odd occasion though, I pick up a GamesTM mag - almost all others these days are just trying too hard.
d4v3 15th April 2008, 22:23 Quote
I havent bought a games mag in over 5 years, you could go as far to say that in my case, they shot themselves in the foot. I saw an ad in an issue of Games Master for the gamesradar website, and read that website on a daily basis, then bought the next issue of games master and found i was reading the same news and similar content to what i'd read on gamesradar a couple of weeks back. from gamesradar, i found more and more gaming websites and have had no need to buy a mag since.
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