Drying Ink

These days when you walk into a newsagents, the floor space surrounding the gaming magazines is a relatively quiet place, but that wasn’t always the case.  I can remember countless times flicking through rack after rack of gaming front covers, usually looking for one to read that didn’t have that infernal plastic coating on it, before eventually buying the one with the best sounding demo disk.  Times have changed though, and the magazine world is now going through a bit of a transition period, with the immediate future not looking too good. Towering above from on high, the Internet looms over the Magazine Industry, a bit like Ivan Drago stood upon Apollo Creed’s broken body, well, sort of.

There’s no denying that magazines still have their place in the world, many still have active readerships and carry a brand that just may see them through the downturn. There are those who enjoy the feel of glossy paper in their hands but they are too few in numbers; cutbacks happen and, before you know it, the last print run is ordered and it’s goodnight Irene. Recently it was announced that PC Zone would be closing and the magazine would cease to exist and, for me personally, this was particularly disappointing to hear. The news should be a lesson to any magazine editor out there, a message that clearly says “you are not safe”. PC Zone, when I was growing up, was one of the heavy weights; for me it was my Rocky Balboa of all the magazine reading I did. But how far have we come when it no longer graces store shelves anymore? It’s perhaps not only a tale of the changes facing the print industry but for also the gaming industry as well.

The Internet exploded at an exponential rate to the point where, today, it’s such a huge part of society that it’s hard to imagine the world without it while, on the contrary, many seem unconcerned by the dwindling numbers of gaming magazines on shelves, as the Internet is now their virtual newsagent. But that’s today’s generation of gamer compared to the one when I was in single digits of age; it’s a different era and a completely different beast. PC gaming was rampant when I was growing up, but these days it’s more of a console world; the way we play games has changed and it will probably change again in the not so distant future and that’s also true about how we receive all our gaming news, gossip, reviews and pretty much everything else that you could possibly need relating to the hobby that many are so passionate about.

As we enter an age where dedicated gaming websites pull in hundreds of thousands of viewers each day and contents of demo disks are not only freely available online but also fed straight to our consoles, it’s hard to understand where magazines will fit in with the gaming world within a few years’ time.  For myself personally, I have a habit of picking a magazine up every time I make a long journey but, sadly, that’s about it. I wish it didn’t have to be that way, that the industry had evolved when it needed to and not before casualties had started to be lost, but apparently we don’t live in a world where Time Lords and their ginger assistants trot around in a feisty blue number fixing the mistakes that should never have happened, sadly.

Perhaps there is some proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and maybe, just maybe, the conclusion will be a bit of “best of both worlds”. With the likes of the Apple iPad currently being one of the most lusted over gadgets on the planet perhaps it, and the whole host of other E-Readers on the market today, could be a remedy for an ailing industry. Digital Distribution is a term bandied about with mixed emotions but while that discussion has been done before, and will no doubt be done again in the not so distant future, it could just be the key to the magazine world’s woes.

It's highly likely that magazines will eventually be forced to go down the road of being purely digital

With the popularity of eBooks having never been so high, surely it would only be a matter of time before gaming magazines found themselves enclosed within an App store of sorts, free of the shackles of their laminated pages and in the potential hands of millions, ready to be purchased at the click of a button regardless of their locale to a shop or not.  Digital Distribution gave PC Gaming a bit of a kick up its ass to jolt it back into life somewhat, and the same could very well happen with magazines. Just imagine before your morning commute to work you pick up your “gadget” that’s already sync’d the latest instalment of EDGE or GamesTM while you ate your breakfast, then jump on a train and begin to read to your heart’s content.

I don’t quite think that the days of magazines are over just yet, even with the big bad internet breathing down their necks it’s a totally different experience and perhaps it’s that more than anything, the experience which needs to be preserved. Picking up a magazine, flicking through its pages and having a good peruse feels totally different to website browsing; some may go onto say that it feels more enjoyable and I’d find it pretty hard not to agree with them. There has to be a time when a line is drawn and battle plans drawn up as, sooner or later, magazines as we know them today will have to change, to evolve to the next step and if a form of digital distribution is the way forward then so be it.

Perhaps between then (whenever that may be) and now things may change and I hope they do, it’d be a damn shame to lose many more magazines to the chronicles of time; they have their place in the gaming world, that much I’m sure of, it’s just a matter of finding out where exactly that is.

Last five articles by Ben



  1. Rook says:

    My magazine dwindled over time as I was mostly flicking through the pages than stopping to read the articles, reviews, previews, etc. Nowadays I don’t buy any magazines. I never really was much of a reader, and videos to tell me about games available online through PC or XBL I don’t see me going back.

  2. Victor Victor says:

    I threw that same sentiment out on another forum once, where a games writer used to lurk. They never used to contribute much, but when I asked whether the internet was killing games magazines, I got an earfull. Or screenfull. Or an unfriendly, rude response. I thought it was a valid question then and it is a valid question now.

    For me, the internet has killed a LOT of my magazine buying. Once upon a time, my monthly purchases would include the following: Heat, FHM, Edge, GAMEStm, T3, Loaded, Empire and a few others. Now, I just simply don’t buy anything. Apart from Edge, it’s not because the quality of the writing has dropped. It’s just that my reading habits have changed completely. Let’s see what the future holds.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Boston Michaels, Greg Capala, robin morgan, joey, Underground Gaming and others. Underground Gaming said: Drying Ink « Gaming Lives: The Internet exploded at an exponential rate to the point where, today, it's such a hug… http://bit.ly/9onOqV [...]

  4. Markatansky says:

    It’s bloody annoying where they put the gaming mags in my local WHSmiths. They’re always sitting RIGHT NEXT to the pr0n mags, so every time I go in looking for a gaming mag I’m worried in case people think I’m really just there for pr0ns – but are too afraid to approach that part of the wall directly. >:/


  5. Knikitta says:

    And yet… I thought you would be ‘in’ most of them sort of Mags Markatansky! :P

    A valid and excellent point Ben, not only towards gaming magz, but all. Surely with the iPad and e-books/e-mags(?) this means a boost too the magazine world? I know I would much rather read an e-mag in bed when the kids are asleep and I can relax, than rustling a paper copy running the risk of waking them…

    …that might sound strange, but our eldest can hear a crisp packet at 15 miles away being opened, a magazine might have the same effect!

  6. Adam Adam says:

    We’re the one left behind on the SS Titanic, sitting on the deck with a bottle of cooking wine and waiting for the inevitable end. I loved magazines, particularly PC Zone, just to have them rolled up in the bottom of a bag. I never read them in one sitting, it would be a week long affair but always, eventually, cover to cover.

    I do hope that Digital Distribution keeps it alive. I don’t ever see the day where I’d feel comfortable bringing out an iPad on the bus to browse and smaller media like iPhones just dont have a big enough size for the job but I’m willing to make the sacrifice if it means keeping alive the best sources of Gaming Journalism.

    It’s sad that Future House wasn’t able to keep PC Zone alive in that respect but understandable given that the brand already carried PC Gamer, it was inevitable I suppose and a testament to PC Zone’s staff and the readers who had constantly defied business logic by forcing the publisher to keep producing the mag. I will miss it’s features and I hope that the writers find new homes, paid ones of course and are allowed to continue producing their own stuff.

    I read about 20 news sites a day on the web and despite enjoying being ahead of the curve, rather than having to wait for 1-2 months for the mags to be able to write about it -it’s not the same as holding a well written and edited mag where the headlines aren’t just reproductions of other sites news stories and the content fluffed out with irrelevant information.

    Long Live the NeverQuest -Thankyou Ben

  7. Samuel The Preacher says:

    I feel like a dinosaur. Yeah, I’m on the site here, and an active participant, but… this is the only gaming site I look at. If you don’t count Penny Arcade anyway.

    I like magazines… they’re tangible, they’re solid, and they’re always accessible… web sites have a tendency to vanish into the aether. The net is too fluid, nothing is built to last. Formats change across entire sites, removing a point of comparison between older content as it originally was and the stuff that’s come along since changes. Looking through old magazines, you can clearly see the demarcation lines between different eras. And they don’t just vanish one day when you go to read them.

    I have a cupboard filled with old copies of PC Zone, Official Nintendo Magazine, CUBE, PC Utilities, and SEGA Power. And some other mags, but they have nothing to do with gaming or computers. I still occasionally go back to them… my old editions of the Ninty mag were immensely helpful when I was trying to get used to the format for writing game reviews, back when I started writing here.

    I don’t like eReaders. I’m one of those people who can’t move for books, read vast amounts, and you’d think would be the ideal candidate for some kind of electronic book. But no, I like the feel of paper in my hands, the smell of the ink, the creak of the spine, the heft of a good sized volume… and the fact that I can read them at my own leisure without sitting in front of a monitor, and without having to worry about battery power, or memory corruption. If I fall asleep reading, I don’t have to worry about screen damage, or dropping it, or rolling over onto it. Do that to a book, and it survives unscathed. Do it to a Kindle, and it’d probably result in a painful and expensive experience.

    Eventually books and magazines will die out entirely… but I just hope I’m dead before that happens. As someone famous once said; “I cannot live without books.” I’m already finding it hard living without most of my favourite magazines.

    Good article Ben.

  8. Edward Edward says:

    I used to be insanely devoted to magazines, and I still keep all of my old gaming magazines despite the fact they clutter up a load of space, but the last time I bought one a year ago, a year after I had bought my last magazine, a terrible thing had happened. The writing became a lot poorer, the reviews were less robust and interesting, the features were lame, and there was nothing interesting or new for me anymore. I hadn’t changed, the magazine had. It was too busy trying to appeal to casual gamers too, as well as the hardcore, and there wasn’t a familiarity to it anymore. It was like an old friend who promised he wouldn’t abandon you, then changed his entire personality in order to make more friends and left you behind.
    Its a horrible cycle for them, because it seems like the magazines have to change their style to appeal to more people in order to sell more in a time when they’re becoming less useful and relevant, but it means they change too much and no longer appeal to their previous audience, who eventually stop buying, meaning they have to appeal even more to others until its too late for them, their integrity, and their audience.
    I know thats not the case for all gaming magazines, and I hope they get better, and like you said, move to a digital distribution format, and not die. Sometimes, like Preacher said, there’s no replacement for the physical copy.

  9. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    Amiga Format was the magazine I spent the most money on, as I loved their coverdiscs. In fact, had it not been for Amiga Format chucking out things like Imagine 2.0 3D, Pixel Pro 2, Deluxe Paint AGA, the very odd Fantavision and various other graphic packages… I wouldn’t be a graphic designer today.

    Oh wait… it’s a gaming site… um… yeah I probably played some of the games from their coverdiscs too. Actually I DO remember a demo for Rick Dangerous and Magic Pockets, both of which I loved so much I bought the company. No that’s wrong, I bought the full games. Rise Of The Robots though… all they ever put out on demo was some little movie clip thing and I went mental over how good it looked, bought the full game… and it was utter shit.

    I miss Amiga Format. Like really good Westlers hot dogs.

  10. Lorna Lorna says:

    I despise the thought of digital only magazines and the death of the gaming mag. Magazines are a huge piece of my gaming history and I used to pour over my father’s copies of C&VG and Your Sinclair. I used to lap up Amiga Power and Amiga Format, among various console mags like Super Play. I love magazines, I love print, I love the texture, the tactile nature, the smell of the ink and the ability to yank out a page, ring something, doodle horns, or just stick in a slice of paper as a bookmark. I love the cover art, the layouts, the design, the matt encapsulated and spot varnished covers, the spines, and more.

    I don’t like reading globs of text on a screen, I like even less the idea of carrying a gadget to read a mag or book rather than an actual mag or book. The whole thing just feels…less real and utterly utterly soulless. The steady demise of the industry is something that I find pretty tragic to be honest but it is hard to see a way through. Sad times indeed but a great article, Ben.

  11. Leon says:

    For me, gaming magazines were simply a matter of getting gaming news, and demos. Although I do enjoy the physical side of magazines, the internet allows me to get all of the information without the cost of the purchase, and I can’t often justify buying something that is telling me what I can just as easily find out for free. Why spend £5 on a magazine when I could just as easily browse IGN or Kotaku?

    I think it’s a shame, but logic tells me that gaming mags aren’t worth the money any more. Less money spent on mags leaves more money to spend on games. The only thing I’ve lost out on is cutting out pictures to stick on my wall – which I’m slowly growing out of, anyway…

    However, I do think that, in a sense, online gaming sites such as Gaming Lives are simply the new era of games journalism. Writers still write articles, readers still read them – only the writers generally have to have a drive and passion to write, and readers are able to find articles about specific things that interest them.

    It’s one of those things – it’s a shame to see something we loved when we were younger dying out, but there’s just better options now, and they’re becoming obsolete.

  12. Richie richie says:

    Back in the day I’d read the three Speccy mags (YS, SU and Crash) from cover to cover each month. These days mags are shit though. Four page preview features based on a short video that’s been released to the internet? “Check out our TEN PAGE review of GTAIV”. Yeah okay, whatever.

    The last good mag was Arcade anyway.

    Good article, Ben.

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