Were Gaming Magazines Always Destined To Die, Or Did We Help Kill Them?

Some of our most important cultural institutions are dying before out eyes.

Story Highlights

  • Gaming magazines were once a key aspect of video game culture.
  • Over time their popularity has been on a decline and they aren’t nearly as relevant as they once were.
  • There are still many in publication, but even they face significant threats.

In order for society to progress and undergo change, social or technological, sometimes certain things have to be left behind whether we want them to or not. But certain things seem to resist

There was a lot of fear-mongering about how the advent of the television would kill the radio, or how the rise of personal computers and handheld devices would completely eliminate the need for books

But both of these still exist in the modern age, though I will admit that they don’t nearly have the widespread appeal that they once did. 

And as this relates to the medium of video games, one of our most important cultural touchstones seems to be going extinct at a rapid pace, and has been for a long time now. I am of course talking about gaming magazines.

A Glorious Time 

PC Gamer Issue 69
Half-Life Featured On PC Gamer Issue 69. (Image Credits: PC Gamer)

For many, gaming magazines were one of their very first tethers to the world of video games, especially before widespread use of the internet was commonplace. And even after it was, many outside of the West who got access to it later, relied on these magazines to learn what was happening in the industry.

Many gamers even relied on them exclusively to learn about games they never would have discovered otherwise. 

And not saying who, but some of us count ourselves lucky to have stumbled on a dusty old February 2000 issue of PC Gamer to learn that Half-Life was a thing that existed. In 2003. Around 5 years after it came out. But hey, better late than never right?

Maybe this is the bias speaking, but these magazines were different, special even. They weren’t like pop culture or tech magazines that maybe reserved a page or two for games, these were fully dedicated to our own personal hobby. 

They also covered more than simply news about games. Many had sections dedicated to showing off tips and tricks you could use in popular titles, or even cheat codes as well. And the truly special issues were the ones that had free demo disks attached to them. 

Decline Of A Medium

Game Informer Magazine
Some Publications Are Hanging On Despite It All. (Image Credits: Game Informer)

So what happened? What started the decline of the medium that is still ongoing today?

Well, the obvious answer is that with the rise of the internet, print media is simply not as popular anymore. Magazine sales in general have been on a decline for a while now, and gaming magazines in particular are a niche within that category.

In the current day and age, information permeates through the internet so quickly that print media simply cannot keep up. 

The moment a game or DLC is announced, a thousand different YouTube channels and websites jump to cover it in a heartbeat for their millions of followers, and most of this is free on top of it. So how is a paid magazine supposed to compete?

As mentioned above, gaming magazines do offer more than simple news articles, but for most people that’s simply not enough incentive anymore to get them to spend money. 

And even though true enthusiasts will always go out of their way to support their preferred publications, that usually is not enough to keep them afloat in the long run. They need wide-ranging support, and they aren’t likely to get it anymore.

Future Threats

Many of the future threats facing gaming magazines are more or less the same ones that they face right now, audience retention and value creation. It almost feels dirty to phrase it that way, like I’m some out-of-touch executive, but it’s kind of true.

People need a reason to buy these magazines for the long run, and we’re likely never going to do so purely for news. Simply by virtue of them being magazines with monthly or bimonthly issues, that’s just not reasonable.

I myself buy issues when I see particularly impressive cover art, an exclusive interview, or an early look at a game I’m looking forward to. 

But all of these are also available online, so magazines need a hook that nothing else has. As I mentioned earlier, demo disks were a huge part of the appeal once upon a time, but that’s not really a thing these days, and neither are traditional cheat codes for that matter. 

Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs Pop-Up Books
Imagine This But With A Nargacuga From Monster Hunter. (Image Credits: Encyclopedia Prehistorica Dinosaurs)

As ridiculous as this sounds, maybe they could utilize things like pop-ups.

Because If you think thousands of fans like me wouldn’t line up to get an exclusive look at something like the newest monster from the upcoming Monster Hunter Wilds popping up out of an issue of Edge Magazine, then you’d be wrong.

Would it be a bit gimmicky? Absolutely. But I would still buy it in a heartbeat and so would so many others. But that’s just one, admittedly childish, idea from someone who does not work in print.

Someone with more know-how than me needs to figure out what it is that magazines can do that websites cannot.

Because we live in an era where print media is quickly going extinct, and I don’t think that’s good for anyone.

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Huzaifa is eXputer's Review Editor, who’s all about RPG games. He’s got several years of experience critically judging games and writing his unbiased thoughts on them. You can also find his content published on sites like Twinfinite & GearNuke. Huzaifa has been gaming for 23+ years, during which he managed to amass 400+ hours on Elden Ring! You can follow his gaming activity on his Xbox and Steam Profiles.

Experience: 5+ years || Previously Worked At GearNuke & Twinfinite || Mainly Covers RPG Guides & Latest Games Reviews || Education: Bachelors in Hospitality.

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