The joy of gaming magazines

Before the internet, all gamers had to find out about upcoming releases were TV advertisements and, more interestingly, magazines.

Joseph Caddick
13th June 2022
Images: Ubisoft and Square Enix
In the era of digital marketing, the impact of print media is often pushed to the wayside. Magazines had a colossal cultural impact, and gaming magazines are a fascinating footnote in the industry's history. At one point they were massively popular, especially during the PS1 era.
Minecraft's Steve reading a book.
Image: Mojang

There's a very clear reason for the popularity of these magazines; in addition to the gaming tips, tricks and walkthroughs, most of them came with demo disks. These let you experience games months or years before they came out, and each issue brought with it a different roster of demos. This is how I got into the Ratchet and Clank series, I played that demo to death so much that my parents bought the games. Mission accomplished, as this was exactly what Sony intended.

A Pokémon trainer riding on Latios with Latias, Fearow and some Remoraid nearby.
Image: Ken Sugimori

As a huge Pokémon fan, there was one magazine that I bought every issue of for close to 4 years. The unofficial magazine was called Pokémon World - later renamed to Pocket World - and is where I found out glitches in Diamond and Pearl's Japanese release and the starters for Black and White after their initial announcement. It had features where kids submitted their collections or their own designs for new Pokémon, and I almost submitted these but was too anxious to go through with it.

My favourite form of gaming news in magazines is that they will often show games that are still in development, some of which end up getting cancelled. Sonic X-treme was marketed in a number of magazines before its eventual cancellation, with its publicity leading to fans seeking information on why it was shelved. Similarly, there's a ton of beta Super Mario World screenshots flowing around that show a number of large differences compared to the final release. As someone who loves learning about cancelled games and beta releases of games that released, magazines are a treasure trove of information that otherwise wouldn't be available to the public.

Crash Bandicoot wearing Hip Hop gear.
Image: Naughty Dog

Where magazines get even more weird is their front covers and advertisements. Some of these were wild. Many of them are clear relics of a time period we have thankfully moved on from. From Lara Croft posing naked on a bed to Crash Bandicoot donning the clothes of a '90s rapper, there was no shortage of weirdness. Even weirder were the advertisements, to say they were creative would be right. To say they were tasteful... would be less right.

If you're interested in looking at the gaming magazines of old, many of them are archived to some extent at Retromags. Even if it's just the cover of a magazine, it's fascinating to look back on a time when video game advertising was a lot less corporate than it has been in recent years.

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