The Needles

The Needles: Can Best Buy Save Gaming Mags?

Andy Chalk | 15 Jun 2010 17:00
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E3 will be under a full head of steam by the time you read this, which means you're not actually reading this at all. You're flitting around the Internet looking for the latest tweets, trailers and live, up-to-the-second coverage of all the high-intensity flash-bangery taking place at the year's biggest gaming event. And so, secure in my isolation, I'm going to talk about something near and dear to my heart, and also a bit of an antithesis to the whole E3 mentality: magazines.

I started buying Computer Gaming World in the early 90s and it remained my mainstay mag for years, before giving way to PC Gamer shortly after the turn of the millennium. But my love for the medium goes back even further, to the days when otherwise normal people would spend interminable hours typing in line after line of BASIC code, squinting at the tiny type jumbled across the pages, just so they could play a primitive version of Tron Light Cycles - but probably not until blowing even more time combing through the program looking for that single little typo that was keeping the damn thing from running. Good times indeed.

So it's not too hard to figure out where my pro-magazine bias comes from when I say that I'm a little sad to see the print medium dying a slow, ugly death at the hands of the infinitely flashier, more immediate and essentially free Internet. Obviously I can't complain too much - I spend an awful lot of time here, after all - but in spite of the fact that the digital era offers immeasurably more of everything, I occasionally find myself looking back wistfully and wondering if maybe there's some way to teach the kids these days about the joys of good old-fashioned page-flipping.

You might think, then, that Best Buy's recent announcement that it's hooking up with Future US to publish a new magazine called @Gamer would stoke my fires a little bit. At 100 pages per issue it's hardly a behemoth but the price is right and the simple fact that someone out there has enough faith to launch a magazine when all signs point to "no" should be heartening, perhaps even inspiring. You would, however, be wrong.

Consider the obvious credibility issue. Future has hired two industry vets to helm the project, which will be overseen by its own presumably-experienced group Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Director. Vice President John Gower went out of his way to note that it will be an "independent" magazine, meaning, one would assume, that it will cover the industry without any kind of overt Best Buy slant outside of the advertising. It sounds good and maybe it's even sincere, but there's just no way to overlook the fact that Best Buy is a retailer selling the products that this magazine will be covering.

Remember when GamesRadar became TombRadar to celebrate the launch of Tomb Raider: Underworld and "the 9/10 scores it is picking up across gaming websites and magazines" that turned out to be pretty much non-existent? Or before that, when Jeff Gerstmann got the boot from GameSpot for dumping a 6/10 review score on Kane & Lynch after Eidos had sunk what I would guess was a fairly substantial amount of money into advertising the game on the site?

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