Game over for the Official Magazine?

Alex Calvin
Game over for the Official Magazine?

The news last week that Future and Nintendo had decided to close Official Nintendo Magazine is a sad sign of the times.

UK Nintendo magazines have come and gone over the years. The biggest casualty before now had been in 2012 when Nintendo Gamer – the successor to a long line of unofficial Nintendo mags from Future – was shut.

That left just one: Official Nintendo. A magazine franchise that stretched back some 22 years (under various different names and two publishers). But as of October 14th that is it – Nintendo's time on newsagent shelves has come to an end.

This means the end of what I firmly believe was the best, and most entertaining, source of coverage on Nintendo games – coverage that is sorely lacking on multi-format publications,” says former games editor Chris Scullion.

It's a sentiment shared by former ONM writer and current Official Xbox news editor Joe Skrebels: The closure of ONM means Nintendo fans have lost a place to revel in their favourite games, as opposed to simply react to them as they appear,” he says. I'm not saying web outlets can't do this. They just very rarely do – yet – leaving little for the kind of fan who cares about those minute details.”

The magazine's former deputy editor Martin Mathers adds: It's the end of an era; the death of something fans grew up with and studied religiously. It's a sad loss – an inevitable one, but still a
sad one.”

If ONM still had a place for Nintendo's dedicated fanbase, then why close it?

We have lots of channels to talk to our consumers, with Nintendo Direct and all our social media outlets and websites, and, of course, Miiverse,” explains Nintendo's UK marketing director Shelly Pearce. We will still keep talking; we have lots to talk about, and there are many ways for us to do that.”

Pearce's point is backed by the rapid decline of print magazines.

Earlier this year, ONM's circulation fell by over 26 per cent to 18,743. As this reader decline becomes commonplace, publishers and platform holders are increasingly trying to reach consumers via YouTube and their own blogs. Nintendo, Sony and Xbox all have their own media services. The latter duo still have official magazines. But do even they need to keep them going anymore?

Yes,” insists editor-in-chief of Future's games department Dan Dawkins. There's no better place to engage than with like-minded readers than in official magazine communities. I mean, it's not like everyone is lucky enough to go to, say, the pub with people who all share their passion for PS4 or Xbox, so the magazines are a great rallying point. Our journalists are keen to share their experiences, helping to shape the agenda of debate and critiquing Sony or Microsoft as appropriate. There's none more valuable, or oft damning, advice than that from those you love. You critique because you care.”

But Mathers admits that from a platform holder perspective, the role of the ‘Official Mag' has been diminished. When the likes of Sony and Nintendo have a direct line to the people they want to attract, having an official voice really isn't required,” he states.

Pearce above highlights Nintendo's Direct video service, held by the firm several times a year, which features new announcements and interviews with developers.

But ONM did more than that, journalists insist.

There's no better place to engage than with like-minded
readers than in official magazinecommunities. I mean,
it's not like everyone is lucky enough to go to, say, the
pub with people who all
share their passion for PS4 or
Xbox, so the magazines are a great rallying
point. Our
journalists are keen to share their experiences, helping
to shape the agenda of debate and critiquing Sony or
Microsoft as appropriate. There's none more valuable,
or oft damning, advice than that from those you love.
You critique because you care.”

Dan Dawkins - Editor-in-Chief, Future Games


Directs are about as exciting as Christmas, but I would argue they fall into that generalised pattern of forward-thinking game reportage,” says Skrebels. They're certainly more personal than your garden-variety press releases. But official magazines offer the space and staff expertise that allows for more open thinking around a console and company's games.”

Former ONM online editor Tom East adds: Nintendo Direct is completely different to ONM. While fans can get announcements and see Nintendo's new games via Nintendo Direct, they won't get any critical analysis of these games. Nor will any of Nintendo's developers or producers have to answer any tough questions in interviews.”

There's been a long-held belief that official magazines have to support the company that's backing them.

But the truth is these titles have autonomy, and look after their readers first.

ONM was never shy of giving a game a kicking if it deserved it, and that's what's still needed,” says Scullion. Like all magazines, part of its role was to be a consumer guide, and as brilliant as the Nintendo Directs are, their lack of negativity means they're clearly more promotion than criticism.”

Freelancer Chris Schilling adds: Official magazines aren't simply about parroting a corporate message. They act as a useful filter, and that's taken away when mags like ONM die.

Social media channels are essentially tailored towards generating excitement about future games. With official publications you have a broader remit – ONM had plenty of retro coverage each month, for example, and spent a lot of time looking at interesting and creative efforts from the fan community.”

Former ONM deputy editor Steve Hogarty agrees and goes further. He states that corporate-run video services and blogs follow whatever the company's marketing strategy may be at the time. The independently-run magazines – even the official ones – could deviate and offer their audiences something extra.

The more bullshit filters you can slot between players' eyes and these direct-to-consumer marketing pipelines the better,” he says. Official magazines will always toe the line to

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