And as a company that has built its empire upon print, Future is a handy barometer of exactly how the magazine sector is doing. According to the most recent ABCs, it seems any reports of print publishing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
“The overall reaction to the ABCs has been very positive,” says Future UK MD Robert Price. “As a company we’re pleased. Clearly there’s a couple of cyclical markets in our portfolio – for instance if you take out the PlayStation and modified cars market, overall Future’s ABCs are up. I think it proves that the magazine market is resilient and at the same time there’s a growing opportunity online which in the games market we are grasping.”
So just as games retail has seen a rough time of late as PS2 begins to pick up a few grey hairs and varicose veins, it follows that Future’s PlayStation-focused titles have seen a similar slump.
Meanwhile, as Xbox 360 and Nintendo formats continue to gain strength, their magazine counterparts have done the same. So in this respect, the best is yet to come, says Price:
“We feel pretty confident when it comes to next-gen games mags. It’s still relatively early days in both the Xbox 360 and Nintendo markets, so there’s a lot to be hopeful about out there.” Indeed, the success of Xbox and Nintendo formats has meant that multi-format mags Edge and GamesMaster haven’t suffered at all, despite a waning PlayStation readership.
One market that hasn’t seen such cyclical peaks and troughs is the PC market, in which Future’s Gamer and Zone are stalwarts of the scene. Both are down a little, but Price says this is no big deal.
“We’re still selling 70,000 magazines a month so there’s a lot of consumers there. With the launch of Vista, I think any positive PR that involved PCs and gaming is good for us and games publishers too.”
So it all seems to be going rather well in terms of Future’s magazine portfolio. But some see online media as the firm’s achilles’ heel – a claim Price disputes. “We’re getting more gamers on GamesRadar and CVG.com than ever before,” he adds. “We’re in a unique position because we have magazine brands combined with online brands, so I think we’re in a strong position for the future – no pun intended.”
So is print really dead? In the literal, dead-tree sense, maybe. But the latest ABCs tell a different story.