6 min read

In-Depth: What The (Game) Papers Say - August 2010, Pt.2

Game magazine veteran Kevin Gifford considers the challenges of magazine subscriptions through UK magazine distributor International Media Services and takes a look at this week's releases from Game Informer, Edge, Retro Gamer and more.
['Game Mag Weaseling' is a weekly column by Kevin Gifford which documents the history of video game magazines, from their birth in the early '80s to the current day. This time -- an analytical look at the latest video game magazines released in the last couple of weeks.] Interesting things are afoot in the magazine world -- John Davison leaving GamePro after less than a year, for example -- but for now, I want to talk about International Media Services, the company that's made much of this afternoon an annoyance to me. IMS is an online outfit that offers US subscriptions for all kinds of British magazines. This includes Edge, and I've subscribed to Edge through them for the past two years or so. Usually the service has been great, but I failed to receive the August issue, and trying to extract some sort of remittance for it -- a replacement issue, or a one-month extension of the subscription, or something -- has been like trying to clean an unsedated bear's teeth. Frustrating, I mean. I got the September issue all right, but that's the last one in my subscription, and IMS has invited me via email (above) to resubscribe for $99...which is rather odd, considering that Edge themselves advertise a subscription rate of $80 in the magazine, accessible via an alternate URL. Was IMS hoping that I would, like, not notice and just hit the "renew" button without checking? After all, the difference between $80 and $99 is pretty big -- one price makes paying for a subscription worth it; the other isn't that much less than simply buying the mag at the stands.
Still, at least there's Edge waiting for me at the end, and therefore I suppose I can't complain too much. (And besides, unlike with Game Informer, at least I'm not all but forced to visit a physical GameStop store -- the one and only time I do each year -- to renew.) Enough whining for now; let's check out the latest mags from the past two weeks of gamedom: Game Informer September 2010
Cover: Batman: Arkham City GI has started printing by-lines for its large features, something it didn't used to do (in sort of Edge-style fashion). Otherwise, the basic shape of the features are the same as always. The cover piece is one of those new-game blowouts that's passed around the forums long before I get a look at it, but apart from the screenshots, it's not all that engaging a piece -- it's a very verbose play-by-play of a demo of the game, without much else to it. The Halo: Reach that follows, partly written in first-person by a "Spartan," isn't remarkably better, nor is the feature on the PS Move which is well executed but covering heavily trodden ground by this point. Not every issue can hit it out of the park, of course, and there are some much nicer pieces up front -- a bit on how the online components of games get beta tested (including lovely stat-porn graphs of killmaps and collision points from games like MAG and Blur), and another on the technology that runs Rock Band 3's hardware. Edge August & September 2010
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Cover: Nintendo 3DS / Kinect I didn't want to shell out for the August Edge just because I'm a prickish completist. There's a fine piece inside devoted to the history of Dragon Quest, done up to commemorate DQIX's recent launch, and it includes interviews with Horii, Sugiyama, and the producer which are lovely but far too short for my tastes. (The piece is also more than a little optimistic about DQIX's chances of duplicating its Japan success overseas, which -- looking back at the game's good-but-not-great launch -- is worth a cynical chuckle.) The Kinect piece in the September issue, meanwhile, is pretty meaty, with interviews and previews that mostly aim to answer all the online negative buzz that's popped up about the peripheral over the past six months. There's also a piece about portrayals of gays in video games which sort of picks up where GamePro's editorial on gays in the industry drops off. I know reading a feature article on LGBT characters in console games is the most stereotypically Edge-like thing you've ever heard of, but the piece is nowhere near as pretentious as you think, trust me. The September issue also has a "Region Specific" developer section devoted to the state of Georgia, and not even Edge -- the mag that can make everywhere from Northern England to Reykjavik sound appealing -- can find anything noteworthy to praise about Georgia in the intro page apart from Coca-Cola and Martin Luther King Jr. (They forgot that it's the headquarters of CNN. For shame!) Official Xbox Magazine October 2010
Cover: Halo: Reach If you want a peek into a game-mag cover designer's mind, the new OXM offers a pretty good chance. Future obviously had Newsstand Gold on the mind with the design for this month's cover, which has a big, red Spartan front and center and uses the word "Halo" four times in big letters. The only way they could've touted the cover subject any better is if each issue had a miniature LED display mounted on the front that flashed "HALO" constantly. The inside doesn't disappoint, either. I've read a handful of "everything but the kitchen sink" Halo features over the years (OXM's done its fair share, and so has GamePro and the old EGM), but this one is among the best. The main text is a simple play report for Reach, but there's massive heaps of side content, from history sidebars and retrospective interviews to profiles of the Red vs. Blue guy and dudes who build Halo armor in their spare time. OXM doing what it does best, in other words. Retro Gamer Issue 80
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Cover: Axelay I'm beginning to see a shift in RG's coverage toward taking a game or two (in this issue, Axelay and Ikari Warriors) and devoting sheer craploads of pages to it, covering every little thing and getting interviews and community comments and overall acting like the game just came out. It's a neat effect, and I like it -- it certainly beats yet another look at some old console or another. Volume 4 of the Retro Gamer Collection is also out on US bookshelves right now, covering all the best stuff they produced from issues 50 to 67. If I were Imagine, I maybe would've waited a bit on this one -- something like this, especially at the price point, would make great Xmas gifts for gamer nerds in the family. Tips & Tricks October 2010
Cover: Super Mario Galaxy 2 Tips & Tricks, aka the only reason I go to the local ghetto supermarket any longer, kicks it up with a massive SMG2 guide and more Yoshi on a single mag cover than anyone's ever produced in recent memory. Good on 'em. [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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