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Magazine veteran Kevin 'Magweasel' Gifford analyzes recent game magazines, finding a fascinating example of how two outlets -- Edge and GamePro -- can do different things with nearly identical covers and image assets.

July 16, 2010

10 Min Read

Author: by Kevin Gifford

[Magazine veteran Kevin 'Magweasel' Gifford analyzes the last couple weeks of game publications, finding a fascinating example of how two magazines -- Edge and GamePro -- can do completely different things with nearly identical covers and image assets.] This week offers an interesting study in game-mag cover design, since we saw GamePro and Edge use not only the same cover subject for their respective issues this month, but also very nearly the same image. (The internal articles in both issues use the same set of screenshots and art as well, right down to the PR photograph of director Craig Sullivan and online producer Matt Webster playing with model cars.) GamePro EIC John Davison mentioned on his Twitter account that the resemblance "had nothing to do with Edge" and that his mag's cover "was the image we worked with Criterion on." Indeed, if you look closely at the two mags, you'll notice that they aren't simple mirror images of each other -- the police cruiser is on the opposite side of the sports car between each image, and the shadows they cast are all different. So is it just a case of someone at Criterion (or EA's PR department) being lazy with image assets? Maybe, but beyond that topic, this gives us a great chance to show how two mags can do remarkably different things with a near-identical cover image. (It also reminds us of how cheap the term "World Exclusive" can be in print game media -- especially considering Edge is dated July '10 and GamePro, with their exclusive, is dated August.) Edge's cover is textbook magazine design. In fact, it's a lot more by-the-book than many of their covers. You have the main image, the top cover line in a large font, and a bunch of less-important articles and reviews touted in diminishing font sizes down the column. Racing games are hard to sell game mags with -- they simply aren't very compelling and eye-catching subjects compared to action-game heroes or cute characters -- and Edge's cover design does the topic no particular favors. GamePro, meanwhile, integrates the building blocks of the cover within the image, like how they've been doing a lot lately. The cover lines, and the name of the magazine, are being run over by the cars, which damages readability a bit but is a lot more artistically interesting. That, plus the bits of white airbrushed on, give the mag a much greater sense of "speed" than Edge's approach. Which is better? If I had to pick, I'd say GamePro in a heartbeat -- but there's no denying that Edge's more standard approach follows more of the unwritten rules of how to sell a magazine in newsstands. Perhaps it's a byproduct of the marketplace, with the US dominated by cheap subscriptions and most UK mags still relying on bookstore sales as their main source of income. Regardless, read on to discover a bit more about the insides of these mags, as well as all the others out in the past two weeks. There's a lot. GamePro August 2010 gp-1008.jpg GP and Edge take the same approach with their respective articles -- how Criteron aims to reinvent the franchise that used to be one of their main rivals in the racing market. It's a pretty good feature, and it's part of a loose "revitalizing the past" theme that courses through this issue, what with the features on the new Goldeneye, the new Deus Ex and the new Driver. My favorite articles, as always, are the ones that talk less about the games and more about the studios developing them. So it is with the piece on DC Universe Online, a game I had forgotten about -- the feature largely consists of the devs convincing the author that DCUO is really innovative, and trying to harness that innovation is why it's been two years since anyone heard from them. Very neat. I also liked the piece on Turbine Entertainment, recently purchased by Warner and trying to push a new monetizing scheme for their MMOs. This month's issue also has a full-page ad plus 1/3-page trailer for the Schick Hydro razor, some of that elusive "non-endemic advertising" that publishers always crave. I'd like to think it's GamePro's response to the Bowflex ads that still pop up in Game Informer now and then. Edge July 2010 edge-1007.jpg The only thing Edge's cover piece does that GP's didn't was interview EA's VP of marketing about where he wants to take the Need for Speed brand starting with this game -- interesting stuff, but sadly it's just a little sidebar. This issue still sticks out in my mind, though, because of its piece on StarCraft in Korea. There is lots of gee-whiz coverage of the Korean StarCraft scene online, of course, but this is the first article I read that puts it all together and defines it for English speakers in a way that doesn't make it sound like some kind of bizarre "those crazy Asians" anomaly. If you don't get this issue, seek this article out whenever Edge posts it online -- it's worth it. Electronic Gaming Monthly Summer 2010 egm-10su.jpg Cover: Mortal Kombat Now we know EGM's back -- their second issue, and they're already doing Mortal Kombat covers. The article inside is much more dev-interview oriented than anything EGM would've printed in the early 1990s, and it's better for it, especially when you see how frank Ed Boon and crew are when it comes to how they want to outclass Street Fighter in sales. There's also a long interview with Warren Spector (you can never have enough of those) and a few smaller pieces on topics like great dev firings in history and stat progressions in games. It's not bad, but nothing here was quite as engaging to me as similar pieces in Edge and GP this month. The fact that many of the pages offer little besides straight text may be skewing my judgment a bit, but some of these articles had trouble keeping my interest the whole way through. Design really does make more of a difference than one would think, I suppose. Nintendo Power August 2010 np-1008.jpg Cover: Dragon Quest IX This issue of NP -- the subscriber version, at least -- has no advertising in the back cover and first inside spread, instead devoting the space to more Dragon Quest-oriented art. They're going all Edge with it, in other words. I like it, but I don't know if it's a new design decision or a by-product of how dead August issues traditionally are when it comes to ad pages. Anyway, Spector talks for a few pages in this mag, too, along with Akihiro Hino, who discusses Level-5's outlook for the US market now that they've got an office over here. He's as hopelessly optimistic as usual -- he claims that Inazuma Eleven could become as big a hit in America as it's proven to be in Japan, for one -- but that's partly what makes him one of my favorite JP devs in the business. The DQIX piece, while nothing new to RPG fans, is nicely put together, as is a follow-up piece on "10 obscure Wii games you ought to be playing" (Little King's Story is in there, of course). Offical Xbox Magazine August 2010 oxmus-1008.jpg Cover: Dead Rising 2 Not since EGM interviewed Steve-O back in 2002 has a game mag dared to feature as big a star as OXM is touting this month -- their feature on unusual gaming clans includes an interview with Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst. "You can't really convince people that you're you, so I don't try to," he says. "If they start talking s*** about Fred Durst, I start talking s*** about Fred Durst." (Apologies to OXM for spoiling the best quote out of the mag this month. Buy it anyway, people!) Otherwise, the meat of the mag lies within a line of preview features that detail all the new updates on games we already knew about. The best of them is Dead Rising 2, what with its auxiliary "pocket guide to bad-guy stereotypies" piece at the end. PlayStation: The Official Magazine August 2010 ptom-1008.jpg Cover: LittleBigPlanet 2 Out of all the print pieces I've read about LBP2, PTOM's is both the most informative and the most enthusiastic -- and that's saying something considering Edge's approach a while back. The enthusiasm catches on like a contagious virus in the rest of the mag, which includes a section on the two lucha libre games currently in development and a bit of a weird feature, "Big Bad & Dangerous," that features lists of things like big guns, annoying characters, really fat enemies, and so forth. A bizarre, but fun, way to fill six pages, definitely. Retro Gamer Issue 78 retrogamer78.jpg Cover: Lara Croft The cover's not about Tomb Raider, but the character Lara Croft, and the feature devoted to her inside is pretty awesome, including everything from dev opinions about her role in the industry to a complete photo lineup of every model that's ever been enlisted by Eidos to play her at public events. (There's been nine of them. I had no idea.) On a more serious note, there's a making-of for Shenmue in this issue as well, and while they didn't get Yu Suzuki for it (they instead interview one of the lead programmers), it's still a lovely reminder of just how nuts that project was. GameFan Volume 1 Issue 2 gamefan2.jpg Cover: Sin & Punishment: Star Successor Man, this really is the new GameFan, isn't it? All these day-glo colors, heaps of screenshots per page, and massive reams of text all over the place. It's a time-warp back to 1995 in a lot of ways. It looks like reader feedback has been going against the MovieFan side of things, at least according to Dave Halverson's editorial. "Everyone likes the movie coverage where it applies, but the overwhelming consensus is that you'd rather see more PC and anime coverage together with a movie section that's more directly related to games, graphic novels, or comics," he writes. Which is a fine idea, of course, but, um, isn't that just Play all over again, then? After two issues, I can firmly say that if you liked Play, you'll like this mag, too. It's got all the same stuff -- really long interviews, really long reviews -- and a lot more flash. Otherwise, well... Tips & Tricks September 2010 tt-1009.jpg Cover: Super Street FIghter IV Speaking of blasts from the past, this issue's SSF4 blowout is another strategy guide that's straight out of mid-90s EGM. You may want to thumb through it at the newsstand for the sheer nostalgia if you're around my age. Beckett Summer Gaming Guide beckettsummergaming.jpg Do a lot of families enjoy their "summer" gaming while wearing pink sweaters? Beckett seems to think so -- maybe they do in Finland, I don't know. As you may guess, this one-off is mainly about games for the family, rating each console on its usefulness in a family environment and concentrating most of its coverage on casual games and kid-friendly online titles. In many ways it reads like a holiday buyer's guide that's being released in July for some reason, what with all the top-10 lists for lots of different gaming genres. Between those lists and articles on things like the ESRB rating system and how to "be safe online," I'm a little unsure what the target audience for this publication is. Very young children? Their parents? People with pink sweater fetishes? Also, could someone explain the backwards "n" in "Gaming" on the cover? [Kevin Gifford used to breed ferrets, but now he's busy running Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots of publishers and game companies.]

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