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

In a conversation with gaming magazine veterans about this feature, a theme came up again and again: In the 1980s and early 1990s, gaming magazines offered a special kind of magic like the one we’ll never see again . † “Their tone and style are very historic,” says Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall, former editor of Zzap!64 and Mean Machines. “I mean, you know, Mean Machines, I don’t think we can escape saying some of the things we’re saying these days,” said Matthew Castle, editor-in-chief of Official Nintendo Magazine when it ceased publication in 2014, his biggest It’s a shame it didn’t appear earlier in the heyday of video game magazines. “When I came to Future, I was reading a lot of old Super Play magazines and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is all good. Why don’t I spend my pocket money on this instead of Boglin or whatever? ?'”

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Officially licensed magazines, such as the Nintendo Magazine system (which underwent several name changes before entering Future Publishing, simply known as Official Nintendo Magazine) gained prominence in the 1990s and beyond. Interestingly, several publishers have both “official” and “unofficial” magazines covering the same formats, such as Sega Magazine (1994) and Mean Machines Sega on EMAP, Future Xbox World (2003) and Official Xbox Magazine ( 2001), as well as PSM2 (2000) and the official UK PlayStation 2 Magazine (2000), also in the future. Especially the original version of the latter, the official UK PlayStation Magazine (1995), was a huge success for the publisher, and its staggering sales probably had a lot to do with the generous demo disc that appeared on the cover every month .

Gradually, over the next two decades, a format of “unofficial” magazines
almost completely squeezed out of the market. Matthew Castle saw both sides of the divide as editor of the unofficial NGamer (which evolved from 1992’s Super Play through several name changes) and later editor of the official Nintendo Magazine.but when

NGamer went bankrupt in 2012 and was initially reluctant to sail in officially sanctioned waters. “In the back of my mind, you know, I’m an ‘unofficial Nintendo Lifetime Magazine.’ We’re the same company, but they’re our competitors. I don’t really want to be a part of it, I don’t necessarily think His worldview matches ours, but I want a job.”

Still, he said that while Nintendo’s license means it’s more restricted
Among the things he could do in The Official Nintendo Magazine, the Wii U’s slump years were actually a blessing in disguise, with the lack of new games the author was free to fill page after page with gloriously ridiculous features. Writing In a way, the anarchist spirit of magazines like YS and Amiga Power exploded again for a while. “I think the last year or so for ONM has been very strong,” Matthew said. “There were things I thought, ‘Nintendo will never keep reading this magazine.’ There were weird alternate Christmas carols joking about things like the head of Nintendo Europe at the time. We published a couple of nightmares about being fired. We Close: I joked about McDonald’s and it almost killed me because they had a happy meal deal with McDonald’s.”

(Image credit: Future)

So we come to the present. Over the past decade, even the most powerful magazines have gone out of business as they struggled to compete with the migration of online readers. C&VG closed its print edition in 2004 and spent its half-life as an online-only publication until 2014. The Official Nintendo Magazine was folded in 2014 after Nintendo withdrew its print magazine. Play ended its run in 2016. GamesMaster survived long after being eclipsed by the TV show of the same name, but finally succumbed to the inevitable in 2018, 25 years after its release. Retro Gamer’s predecessor Imagine Publishing’s multi-format game went silent almost simultaneously after 16 years on the market.

But there are still some obstacles.Official Xbox and PlayStation Magazine
It still makes a room for WH Smith, and PC Gamer has been releasing continuously since 1993. Last year even launched a new game magazine in the form of an indie-focused Wireframe, while tween-focused magazines like 110% Games thrived on newsstands’ bottom shelves. Then there’s Edge, which was touted earlier this year as the UK’s longest-running gaming magazine. May you all be long!

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

Speaking to games magazine veterans for this feature, one theme comes up again and again – that back in the Eighties and early Nineties, there was a special kind of magic that was bottled by games magazines, the likes of which we’ll never see again. “They have a certain tone and style to them that’s very much of the period,” says Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall, ex-editor of Zzap!64 and Mean Machines. “I mean, you know, Mean Machines, I don’t think we could get away with saying some of the things that we used to say nowadays.” Matthew Castle, who was Official Nintendo Magazine’s final editor when the publication closed in 2014, says that his biggest regret is that he didn’t get into videogame magazines earlier, during their golden age. “I read a huge pile of old Super Play magazines when I joined Future, and it was just like, ‘Oh, god, this is all so good. Why didn’t I spend my pocket money on this instead of Boglins or whatever it was?’”
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Officially licenced magazines like Nintendo Magazine System (which went through several name changes before ending up at Future Publishing as the simply named Official Nintendo Magazine) gained prominence throughout the Nineties and beyond. Interestingly, several publishers had concurrent ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ magazines covering the same format, like Sega Magazine (1994) and Mean Machines Sega at EMAP, Xbox World (2003) and Official Xbox Magazine (2001) at Future, and PSM2 (2000) and Official UK PlayStation 2 Magazine (2000), also at Future. The latter’s original incarnation in particular – Official UK PlayStation Magazine (1995) – was a massive success for the publisher, with its phenomenal sales probably having a lot to do with the generous demo disc that straddled the cover each month.
Gradually, over the next two decades, ‘unofficial’ single-format magazines would
be almost completely pushed out of the market. Matthew Castle saw both sides of the divide as editor of the unofficial NGamer (which evolved, via several name changes, from 1992’s Super Play) and later on as editor of Official Nintendo Magazine. But when
NGamer closed down in 2012, he was initially reticent about sailing into officially sanctioned waters. “In my head, you know, I was ‘unofficial Nintendo mag for life’. We were the same company, but they were our rivals. I didn’t really want to be part of it, I didn’t necessarily think their world view matched up with ours – but I wanted a job.”
Still, he says that although the Nintendo licence meant he was more constrained
in what he could do at Official Nintendo Magazine, the lean Wii U years were actually somewhat of a blessing in disguise, freeing the writers to fill pages upon pages with gloriously nonsensical features thanks to the lack of new games to write about. In a way, the anarchic spirit of magazines like YS and Amiga Power flared again for an instant. “I think the last year or so of ONM is actually pretty strong,” says Matthew. “There was some stuff where I was like, ‘There’s no way Nintendo is reading this magazine anymore.’ There were bizarre alternative Christmas carols that were making fun of the then head of Nintendo Europe and stuff like that. There were several things we printed where I then had nightmares I was going to get fired. We did come close on a couple of occasions: I made a joke about McDonald’s, which almost got me nuked because they had a Happy Meal deal with McDonald’s.”

(Image credit: Future)
And so we come to the present. The past decade and a bit has seen even the most mighty magazines fall as they struggled 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 bowed out in 2014 after Nintendo withdrew from print magazines. Play ended its print run in 2016. GamesMaster survived long after its namesake TV show was put out to pasture, but it eventually succumbed to the inevitable in 2018, after 25 years of publication. The multiformat gamesTM from Imagine Publishing, former home of Retro Gamer itself, went silent at around the same time, after 16 years on sale.
But there are still a few holdouts. The official Xbox and PlayStation magazines
still carve out a space in WH Smith, and PC Gamer has been continually published since 1993. Last year even saw the launch of a brand-new games magazine in the form of the indie-centric Wireframe, while pre-teen-focused mags like 110% Gaming thrive on newsagents’ bottom shelves. And then there’s Edge, which earlier this year celebrated becoming the United Kingdom’s longest-running games magazine. Long may they all continue!
This feature is taken from Retro Gamer Magazine and you can save up to 57% on a print and digital subscription by subscribing today

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