Monday, 15 July 2013

Do we need games magazines anymore?

Jake Thornton has posted the Beta rules for the latest three Dreadball teams on the Quirkworthy blog. Once, long ago, these would have been published in a printed magazine. That they now appear on the games designers blog highlights one more area once occupied by dead tree publications that has been annexed by the web.

With the Internet all but ubiquitous, there is really very little left for gaming magazines. Experimental rules work better on the Internet because the designer can get immediate feedback and make quick updates. News is also better managed by websites and blogs which can update more frequently and post corrections.

Other traditional areas covered by magazines, from painting advice, modelling guides, reviews, battle reports may not be any better online, but they certainly aren't any worse and have the advantage of costing far less to publish. It feels like the only advantage print has is that it can be carried to the gaming table, but in the era of Ipads, Tablets and smart phones even that advantage is falling away.

Looking back ten years or more, most miniature companies looking to make a name for themselves, or just compete with Games Workshop, felt the need for some kind of house journal or periodical, from Cry Havoc (Rackham) to No Quarter (Privateer Press). Mantic Games tried it for a little while, but dropped the idea quite quickly. Wyrd Games produce a digital magazine, before focusing their attention on the website. And Cipher Studios have run their blog as a kind of rolling online magazine.

So it feels like the era of the printed games magazine is ending. Does it really matter? Have we not replaced one way of distributing content with another, better, system? Well there is one respect in which a magazine can be better than the web. The web offers an article, blog or video for everyone on almost any subject imaginable. But it is so vast, that you have to go and look for it. A good magazine can offer a selection of articles on a variety of subjects, some of which you might not have thought to read. I have started more than one army and more than one game simply because of a sideways glance at an article in a magazine I had bought for a completely different reason. Yes it is possible to stumble across interesting and unexpected content on the Internet, but are you as likely to?

So if the printed magazine is becoming a thing of the past, there is at least one area where we may be worse off.


  1. I think it is a terrible idea to lose the printed word period. Magazine's especially. The magazine (or a journal or what have you) gives hobbyist an inspirational reference. While inspiration can be gotten from internet articles I don't think they have the same richness the printed article has. Just mho.

  2. I think that you hit the nail on the head as to why magazines still have value. Hobby magazines that cover a wide-range of topics (rules, scenarios, game design tips, campaigns, painting, modeling, reviews, opinion pieces) and that do it well on a reliable, regular-basis are still valuable in my eyes. There's a wealth of free stuff on the Internet, but of varying quality, sporadically posted, and sometimes lost in an avalanche of information overload. So a well-done, focused magazine is certainly worthwhile.

    I think many of the house magazines struggle because their content is too focused. I have no interest in a mag that talks about only 1 game or range of figures if I don't play that game. Show me the BIGGER PICTURE of the HOBBY AS A WHOLE, not tied to any particular manufacturer or set of rules, and then you've got me hooked.

    For what it's worth, I think the new MINIATURE WARGAMES edited by Henry Hyde is a good example of a worthy read. I wish it had MORE fantasy stuff (I'm giving it time), but there are always a couple of really good articles in every issue.