Can you believe that it has been over a year since the last issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly hit newsstands? As a longtime subscriber – my first issue dates back to the Sushi-X days – the great 1up.com purging was heartbreaking. That magazine was a major influence on our Pack and a games journalism institution. It didn’t matter that I only had time for the cover stories, and it didn’t matter that so much of the content was “old” by the time it arrived in my mailbox. I was loyal to print and believed in whatever the 1up guys were doing, so paying for a subscription was a no-brainer. Plus, EGM was always a great toilet read. Boo on Hearst or Ziff or whoever else was ultimately responsible for its demise.
Shortly after so many of the veteran staffers were booted, Steve Harris, the founder of EGM, announced that he bought back publishing rights and intended to revive the magazine in the near future. We didn’t hear much for many months besides a few vague promises of a “new business model,” not unlike almost every other floundering print publication out there. Coming out of an incredibly cynical journalism master’s program, I was an immediate skeptic, but I vowed on our podcast to withhold judgment until we had more details. On Saturday, Harris provided said details…and I am cautiously optimistic.
I like that Harris seems to be taking e-readers and tablets into account. While I don’t own a Kindle and probably won’t pick up an iPad anytime soon, I see the potential here. This is a step into unfamiliar territory for gaming magazines (at least as far as I know) and far from a sure thing, but I think figuring out the games journalism puzzle is going to take a lot of experimenting. Not everyone can land a posh distribution deal with GameStop.
It also helps that his new staff has so much multimedia experience under its belt. Granted, many of these guys worked on EGM 1.0, but that magazine’s mission statement became increasingly muddled as 1up.com started to shine. Here, you have key Bitmob (social/community coverage) and Area 5 (the best damn video game show in town) integrated from the beginning. With a decent budget, there’s no limit to what these guys can do.
But that brings me to my biggest reservation: with so many potential directions, why is the new EGM turning to print? When our favorite magazine bit the dust a year ago, I immediately signed up for the cheapest Edge subscription I could find. I needed a physical copy because…well, just because. But after the dust settled and people realized that the death of EGM did not signify the end times, all I was left with was a stack of expensive magazines with outdated information. Oh, and some strong features, but I’m not sure that was enough.
I still subscribe to magazines and I still read hardcover/paperback books. I’m not ready to give that up. But games are so technology-driven and gamers are so internet-savvy that a monthly news cycle no longer cuts it. I know that this is purely subjective – Tom and Nick are likely gung-ho to start building their bathroom libraries once more – but from a business perspective, I don’t think there’s enough of a demand for yet another gaming magazine on the bookshelf. Even one with EGM’s storied past.
The subscription model itself also seems strange. You can get six print issues and 26 “premium digital issues” for $14.99 or 12 print issues and 52 digital issues for $24.99. But what about the rest of us who would prefer to save and just have our digital copies? It’s true that long-form writing is often preferable in a portable form, but I have a fancy-pants phone that’s up to the task, and so will all of those crazy iPad converts. I just think there needs to be another option or two that doesn’t force us to pay for magazines we don’t want or need.
But as you’ve probably guessed by now, I visited the new subscription site and put a down payment on 12 issues anyway. There’s still quite a few questions to be answered – I really want to know if there’s going to be a pay-wall in place for the entire site – but the guys involved in this project have proven that they’re going to make the most of this opportunity. If I were an investor, I’d still be pretty darn nervous, but as a fan, I’m praying that Harris’ gamble pays off.
You can keep up with future developments at the EGMNOW Twitter account.