A few gaming news sources are reporting that Nintendo Power is ceasing publication soon, and apparently some now-deleted tweets from various NP staff have helped to verify this news. This is really not a surprise, given Nintendo Power‘s increasing lack of relevance in gaming culture. This news (assuming it is true) is just the latest in an industry trend: the gaming magazine seems to be dying. With the unfortunate exception of Game Informer, the gaming magazine as a whole is on the decline. The reasons for this should be rather obvious to most gamers.
With the Internet being as widespread as it is, there is no reason for gamers to spend five or more dollars on a magazine when any relevant gaming news can be found in seconds online. A print magazine simply cannot keep up with the speed of an online publication; breaking news could be days or even weeks out of date by the time it appears in print. With gaming websites capable of generating more and better content than a print magazine at less cost to the consumer, it is no real surprise that gaming news magazines have declined in in the past few years. Print publications have to compete with the speed and convenience of online news, and they simply cannot stay up-to-date on news.
Similarly, editorial and review-focused magazines have seen a similar decline due to online resources. With the average gamer now easily able to post their thoughts on a game, it is easier than ever for a potential game customer to seek out a wide variety of opinions on a particular title before making the purchase. The general decline in the quality of critic reviews has also largely contributed to this; one needs only to look at the Metacritic pages for games like Out of the Park Baseball 2007 or nearly any Call of Duty title to see the difference between professional reviews and the average gamer. And while some differences in critic versus user reviewing can surely be attributed to trolling and blind nerdrage, it is clear looking at critic reviews that critical acclaim is a poor measure of a game’s actual quality.
And what of strategy guides? While GameFAQs has had an obvious effect on the decline of strategy guides, there were still reasons to choose printed guides over text walkthroughs. A printed strategy guide could have maps and visual aids, which are much more difficult to do with simple text. GameFAQs and the like surely struck a blow to the printed strategy guide, but what really dealt the final blow was the newfound availability of the video walkthrough. While a map and pictures may be helpful to gamers, it is even easier to simply watch a video of someone playing through a particularly difficult section of a game, especially if the player is providing informative commentary while doing so.
The “Let’s Play” video was not a good thing for the informative video game magazine. Like news and reviews, it is now easier, cheaper, and more convenient to simply use the Internet to find any and all gaming-related information. There is also of course the issue of misinformation in printed walkthroughs; in order to get the strategies to print in time, strategy guide and magazine writers would need pre-release versions of games; additionally the software patch model of game release means that certain strategies become obsolete or simply no longer work. This leads to such debacles as the hilariously outdated City of Heroes and World of Warcraft strategy guides or the infamous Dreamcast version strategy guide for Half-Life, guide for a version of the game that ended up being cancelled.
With information so easily available on the Internet, it is really only natural that printed game media would become a thing of the past. Gone are the days of Expert Gamer, GamePro, and Tips and Tricks. While strategy guides do still appear on bookstore shelves and the ironically-titled Game Informer is sadly one of the highest-selling magazines of 2012, it seems that the video gaming magazine is on a steep decline. Then again, with online walkthroughs, news, and editorials so readily available, do we as gamers even have a need for magazines anymore?
What are your thoughts, readers? Is the decline of the video game magazine a depressing sign of the times, or is the convenience of online information simply the better way to game? As far as I am concerned, the ready availability of walkthroughs and news is a much better state for gaming than the older way of doing things, but perhaps our readers feel differently.