Erik talked yesterday about GamePro closing down. (A few years back, when EGM shuttered its windows, I was given a subscription to Maxim to make up for my remaining 5 years or so. Ugh. Is that what kids read these days?)

One of the biggest problems that I noticed with EGM (and I don’t know if GamePro had a similar problem but I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t) is that game scores no longer meant much of anything. You had to really read between the lines to figure out if the 9.3 (or whatever scoring numbers they used) the game got was indicative of 9.3ness or if they were saying “LOOK AT THE POINT-THREE!!!!! THAT’S TELLING YOU EVERYTHING!”)

When a game company has the leverage to say “we won’t advertise with you unless your scale for our games goes from 8.5-10.0 and we won’t let you have interviews with our programmers unless your scale goes from 8.8-10.0”, you’re going to find a lot of 8.9 scores where a 5.0 used to be… which makes the magazine less useful to read which means fewer eyeballs looking at the ads which means lower ad rates which means that you’ll be shuttering your windows anyway.


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com


  1. This is, in general, a problem for all narrow-interest publications. Nearly all of your money is going to come from people in the industry you cover. Who else wants to buy ad space in New Numismatics other than folks selling coins? So, the space you have to publish open and honest assessments of that industry will be somewhere between slim and none. It’s not even a matter of pissing of one advertiser for a negative review (though those things do happen), as it is that you can’t fairly review industry trends at all since everyone will refuse to advertise if you piss in the punch (by say telling everyone that proof sets aren’t worth it).

    Now, to look at it from the other side, it always amazes me how bloated magazine staffs and expenses are. The masthead often has 30-40 people on it, they have expensive fancy office space in covetous locations, all to produce maybe 40 pages of content per month and place 60 ads, for which they charge five figures per page, then they all wail and cry when someone realizes the revenues don’t exceed expenses in a sustainable way.

    I left my job at a medium paper copy desk to start a regional-interest magazine almost a decade ago. We could put out a monthly glossy with a staff of two plus a sales person and sell ads for 1/6th the entrenched incumbent that had a staff of 20 to produce a slightly larger publication. Today they maybe have a staff of five and the old incumbent was shut down completely a year ago.

    I moved on a long while ago, but the industry still fascinates me, mainly in the weird economic space they tend to operate in.

  2. Nah, it’s the Internet, not the rating systems. The big internet sites (IGN et all) have the same 7-10 rating system, but are doing fine compared to the magazine racks.

    • Yeah; there’s just no reason to spend money on magazines anymore when everything in the mag is available for free on the Internet.

      I remember back when “the Internet” was a special place you went on Prodigy, and Computer Gaming World would put out magazines the size of telephone books (and printed on similar-quality paper) that had porno advertisements in the back.

    • They’re doing fine because their operating costs are so much lower, but they still depend on advertising for revenue.

  3. It is also a matter of options for the computer companies to spend their money on. They now have many more options to advertise from and that power allows them to force publications to be nice to their games.

  4. It makes me wonder if the best solution isn’t to ignore scores. If you want to get a feel for a game you have to read the review proper.

  5. A Jaybird that I know used to make fun of me for doing demos all the time (which can be misleading…..damn you Cy Girls and Test Drive 5) but one of the reasons for doing demos is that I had spent time on the game reviewer side of things and, when you submit a review to a website or a magazine, they’re going to be taking advertising dollars into account when they print it. If the advertising dollars are high enough, sections of your review may be altered or cut out to say nothing of what the score may eventually be. For games like Halo or Final Fantasy, you can’t even go with Metacritic or Gamerankings because the advertising reach is expansive enough to silence dissenting voices across the board.

    I also did Gamefly for 7 years as a “try before I buy” but that’s ending this month so I’ll be back on the demos.

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