Monday, December 13, 2004

Anutha One Bites the Dustah

Gaming-Age Forums - GMR magazine is no more

i would have linked to a better article, but in the forum linked above you get to actually see GMR editors finding out for the first time FROM THEIR FORUMS about how their magazine got cancelled.

What. The. Fuck.

Some background: The most-read game magazines in the past, generally GamePro and EGM, usually topped off around 500,000 circulation. In fact, the magazines really topped off there, finding it difficult to surpass that mark. Still, that's a lot, considering that GamePro and EGM were in the top ten list of most-read magazines of any type, let alone gaming mags.

Then Game Informer, a little-known magazine from Minnesota, came along and suddenly claimed a readership of over 900,000. At the time, the most intelligent comment to this from folks at the other mags was, "WTF??!?!?!!LOLOL"

So people looked into it. It turned out that Game Informer was being given away to people who bought into the frequent buyers' club or whatever at GameStop. Whereas GamePro and EGM had to go about their circulation the traditional way, by, y'know, selling the magazine (or giving it away strategically, to dentists and doctors' offices and stuff), GI was literally giving the mag away (in addition to its newsstand sales and subcscriptions. So everyone who got the club card, which you would buy in return for discounts and a free subscription to GI, would get the mag for free.

You would often hear people say, "Yeah, GI. I don't like it and don't read it, but they gave it to me, so whatever." Over time GI went from a great indie mag to a "Oooh, this new game is COOL" magazine. On the other hand, their gargantuan circ numbers made it difficult for PR folks from game publishers to go anywhere else for their big stories, because PR folks don't really care about the quality of an article, they only care about how many pages that article takes up and how many "eyes" are going to see it. With GI, they could guarantee that roughly 900,000 people would see the cover with their game on it. You could count the number of truly big breaks on non-GI covers on one hand. GI got every big exclusive review (including a glowing one of Star Wars Galaxies based entirely on the pre-release beta and an obscenely high-scored Enter the Matrix review months before anyone else), only increasing their newsstand numbers. Meanwhile, subscription renewals were low (I had heard 15%, but then I worked for the competition), and while many of us tried to tell our contacts that, while GI claimed a huge readership, only a few of those readers liked the mag enough to renew it. But the words, they do nuffink.

Anyway, as with every great idea that makes a real success story, someone set out to copy it. Electronics Boutique said, "Hey, that GameStop has a great idea, let's create our own corporate whore magazine!" And they did, and it was published by Ziff Davis and titled, "GMR," because everyone knows that stripping the vowels from a word makes that word cool. Despite GMR's original Editor in Chief being a pretentious jerk, the magazine apparently wasn't that bad. Of course, you got the mag with your EB club card, which is in itself a rip-off.

An aside: I worked at EB a while back, before I moved out to California and sold my soul to Satan. We had a quota of club cards to sell every month, and we actually got a bonus for selling them. Tell me: Would a corporate entity give monetary incentives to their lowly retail droogs to sell a product that wasn't almost 100% profit for them? I doubt it. The cards are a ripoff. With GMR, you get a free magazine, but it's all a scam. You can go in the internet and get better info. Basically you're handing EB free money, and in return you get a low discout, guaranteeing that if you want to buy a game you'll go to EB first to get your 5% off. You also get a magazine that tells you what games to buy. Not bad.

Anyway, back to GMR. The reason for writing this isn't because the magazine's awesome circulation was due to a copycat scheme based on GI's successful venture, but because the magazine is now dead. If you read the forum, you'll see that the editors weren't told until after the subscribers were. The people who worked on this magazine found out AFTER the people who read it. That is fucked up.

Apaprently, EB removed the "get magazine with club card" offer a few months back, and the magazine plummetted. In such a case, as we learned from Gamestar last week, the best thing to do is to break the magazine and stop making it. In the case of Gamestar, nearly the entire editorial staff was sheared off. In this case, a letter went out to subscribers of GMR, someone posted it on an online forum, and the GMR staff found out that way. I can't imagine how awesome it must be to go online and find out your mag got cut. It must feel like getting a milllion dollars in the mail on your birthday.

Dear Game Magazine Editors: Stop it. You're being treated like sheep. Some of you have real skills in writing, editing, or even reporting. Some of you don't just regurgitate press releases like a mama bird. You will succeed in other jobs where your skills will be more worthwhile. Game magazine publishers don't love you, and to them, you are the worst kind of scum: Whereas subscribers pay for the magazine, you are PAID FOR the magazine. Game editors aren't valuable content providers for them, they're freeloading slackers who do what a trained advertiser could do. Editorial takes up valuable ad space in magazines. It's only a matter of time before someone puts a stop to that.

Most likely IDG's Dan Orum. Because he hates puppies.