[Kevin Gifford takes an an analytical look at the latest video game magazines, covering the last-ever issue of UK stalwart PC Zone, as well as new issues of PC Gamer through OXM to @Gamer.]
Much like the news sections of print magazines, nobody should ever accuse me of being timely. I wrote about the closing of UK magazine PC Zone all the way back in July
, and only now have I managed to get my own copy of the November 2010 issue, the final one.
Future Publishing, in the UK at least, have been very kind to their floundering mags. From Official PlayStation Magazine
to such classic titles as Your Sinclair
and Commodore Format
, the publisher has (with few exceptions) always allowed its ill-performing titles to have an official "final issue" send-off.
They do this instead of simply laying off the staff at the end of a cycle, as what happens with most other publications (and to me, about two or three times during my career). It's a nice gesture, especially considering PC Zone is probably lucky to be selling four-figures right now, I would imagine, despite my best efforts advertising it here.
From cover to cover, the final PC Zone makes no secret that this is the last one. The editor's column is written by "The Reaper" (which I can't help but wonder might be a reference to the semi-dormant Magazine Death Pool
weblog), and the letters column filled with fond reader tributes (including one from an Iraqi who somehow read the mag all through the 1990s).
There's also a roundup of commentary bits from assorted PC-biz folk, a timeline-style PC Zone history, and
a roundup interview with most of the main folks involved with the mag over the years, discussing what their favorite PC games of all time are. A little self-indulgent, yeah, but to fans, it's exactly what they want.
It's plain to everyone that the PC game biz is different from when PC Zone launched in 1993, 225 issues ago. It's different from two years ago, even, in fact. The industry and media are almost entirely online nowadays, from reviews and discussion to the actual purchase and download of the games themselves -- and in this sort of environment, it does get kind of hard to justify the existence of a standard, hardcore-oriented PC game magazine, doesn't it? No matter how unique and funny the writing is, I suppose.
PC Zone might not get missed by a lot of people, but nonetheless it does signal the decisive end of a certain era in game mags -- one where you purchased it for the sake of loyalty to the title or the editors, not because of what was on the cover or whatnot. The loyalty that people used to have for mags like PC Zone now inevitably goes to their favorite blog or forum or podcast instead. It's not something to lament, necessarily, but it is a major transition regardless.
Before I get any more misty-eyed, though, let's move on to the other mags that've crossed my desk over the past fortnight.
Official Xbox Magazine Holiday 2010
Cover: Call of Duty: Black Ops
The top feature this time around marks the Xbox 360's fifth birthday -- a pretty neat feature, actually, and one I wish had a little more space. That's especially true considering that the other main features -- reviews of the Kinect launch lineup, a review/strategy piece for Black Ops
-- were both out of date by the time I received this issue in the mail.
Otherwise, this is largely an end-of-year review issue, and therefore there's not a lot for me to comment about.
PC Gamer January 2011
Cover: Diablo III
The cover piece is similarly disappointing if you're tuned-in online, as it's basically a hands-on dating back to BlizzCon and doesn't add much to what's known or interesting about the game. The companion piece on Red Orchestra
is a different story, a very in-depth preview piece and very engaging to read -- I'm sure Diablo
's a far better cover subject, however.
@Gamer December 2010
Cover: Crysis 2
Few other magazines would give a page-sized preview to the new Bejeweled game, but @Gamer isn't your typical magazine. (Most others wouldn't give coverage to iPad games, either.)
Their Kinect review roundup seems a fair bit more appropriate for this mag than OXM, given that this issue will be bumping around Best Buy shops all through the shopping season. It also seems better designed, in my opinion, not to mention the lovely-looking (if scant in detail) cover piece.
A Bonanza of Specials
I've been a tad behind on getting the newsstand-only Future mags lately, chiefly because $9.99 is starting to seem like quite a lot for content which is often repurposed from something I've already purchased half a year ago. My resolved weakened this week, though, and so I bought The Ultimate Guide to Halo
-- which is a lot better than I anticipated, given all the original content inside, including stuff like interviews with the last few Xbox Live gamers who stuck around Halo 2
until it finally closed for good last May. There's a worryingly long Halo
novel except, but ah well.
I was even leerier about the 2010 Build Your Own Gaming PC
edition, given that they're touting World of Warcraft
(a six-year-old game) on the cover and implying it's something worth building a state-of-the-art rig for. The insides are a great deal more honest and full-featured, but don't expect a lot you didn't see in the last edition of this special -- the content's largely the same idea, right down to the vertically-oriented page layouts for each component of your PC.
Finally, GamePro's 2010 Ultimate Buyer's Guide
is pretty much all review reprints. Nice, sparse design on the inside, though.
[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.]