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Does The End of EGM Spell Doom for Game Magazines?
Why EGM's death doesn't necessarily spell the end of printed game media
By Nadia Oxford
January 30, 2009
Before 2009 had aged a week, game-related message boards and news sites were ablaze with an announcement that jarred gamers out of their post-holiday hibernation: the 1UP Network had been sold to Hearst Media, and long-running game magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly would cease publication immediately.
When a magazine exists long enough to grow alongside a generation of gaming pioneers--and even usher the children of said generation into game reviews, previews and columns--it seems untouchable. Times change, though: day turns to night, spring turns to winter and print media turns into online websites. EGM had twenty healthy years and a huge roster of talented editors and writers who deserve to be remembered fondly. From the convincing April Fool's jokes to the back-and-forth between the Review Crew, every gamer has at least one “Oh yeah! Remember when--” story about the magazine (and older gamers used to ponder the true identity of the mysterious writer Sushi-X).
Long before the death of EGM, it became apparent that the role of game magazines was fading, at least in America. Depending on your viewpoint, it seems as if magazines in their entirety have outlived their usefulness, as have newspapers. Realistically, printed media will endure for a while longer. Specialized trade magazines still sell, and some game magazines are finding comfortable niches that keep them out of obsolescence's reach.
But gamers make up a different demographic than subscribers who shuffle to the mailbox every month for their edition of Cat Fancy, and the readership for game magazines has altered considerably over the past ten years or so. Gaming is a hobby that centers around technology; it only makes sense that the same generation that grew up among game consoles and computers would take to the Internet like Pac-Man to a power pellet. We used to depend on publications like EGM for our game news and reviews, but the role of magazines lessened when acquiring news and opinions became as easy as opening Netscape.
Magazines wisely began expanding their content beyond reviews, news and previews to include exclusive features, in-depth game designer interviews and even recollections about retro titles. This brand of varied content has sustained remaining publications since, but sadly, when an investor demands an instant return, game magazines are slow to return those numbers in spite of subscribers. Game magazines are certainly still enjoyed by many, but their necessity has been diluted.
Simply put, game magazines will survive, but they must fight in a hostile environment. Young gamers will continue to opt for the Internet over magazines. Pocket money doesn't come easy, and the early years of gaming sow a strong interest in news, reviews and a sense of community. Developer interviews and trim, well-edited features, which are becoming the life blood of game magazines, are of more interest to twenty- and- thirty-somethings.
The Children Aren't the Future
Any way you look at it, game publications have undeniably reached a transitional period: they're not for kids anymore. Those of us who grew up with gaming magazines and witnessed their boom in the early '90s can't help mourning for a generation who will never really know what it was like to wait an entire month for game news. Though that may sound like the kind of lamentation that should be preceded by anecdotes about walking to school uphill in the snow (both ways), it's strange to consider that there's no more need to milk every page of a game magazine for information. Kids no longer need to pore over every paragraph and flip the pages back and forth until they become worn. Even fun identity gimmicks like EGM's Sushi-X don't hold up in an age where Facebook, instant messaging and Wikipedia will unravel a mask of mystery in no time.
But anonymity isn't all it's cracked up to be. EGM had a tight writing community that has since broken up and gone off onto other projects. One way or another, you can find and follow a favorite writer, whether it's through another gaming website, or a blog, or a podcast.
In this way, EGM is not dead. Its state of matter has changed. We were fortunate to have known it for so long, and we're fortunate that the components that made it great will still be able to hang around in some capacity.