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PC Gamer jumps the shark, fires columnists

I have been a subscriber to PC Gamer magazine for six or seven years now. I have enjoyed the magazine: its humour, the generally well thought out reviews of computer games, and most especially the regular columns by people like Andy Mahood and Desslock (Stefan Janicki). I could rely on these industry observers to give me something enjoyable to read whenever the games being reviewed failed to interest me… which was more often than not. Each of these writers focused on genres: RPGs, Simulations, First Person Shooters, and so on: I could get reasonably intelligent snapshots of entire industry segments from these folks.

In the April issue of PC Gamer, the new “Editor in Chief”, Gary Steinman, announced the end of the “back of the magazine” columnists. In a failed attempt to be humorous, Mr. Steinman described those who enjoyed these sections as expressing some sort of defect, reading the “wrong” parts of the magazine instead of the stuff he deems “interesting”. Any marginally competent editor would have actually surveyed some readers to see what they actually, oh, I don’t know, enjoyed about the magazine? That might have been wise, but Mr. Steinman didn’t do this.

I have to assume that Gary Steinman isn’t totally incompetent, and that there was really some other reason for the butchery. My best guess would be that the change was made because Mr. Steinman has been assigned the role of “hatchet man”, sent in to brutally hack off the limbs from PC Gamer and reduce costs. The whole thing will now be rubber-stamp written by largely personality-free drones from the British division of Future Media, the company that owns the publication. This will undoubtedly reduce costs. I know these kinds of things happen and, although I wish the new hatchetman…er, editor, could have been more honest, I don’t wish ill upon those who remain.

The problem I have here is that the magazine is now basically a hollow shell. It is nothing more than a bunch of miscellaneous reviews that I could get online for free without having to wade through dozens of pages of stuff I don’t care about. Months ago they actually started reprinting content from the GamesRadar.com website: yes, a print magazine reprinting web content. It would be different, I suppose, if the reprinted content was actually *good*: but instead it is insipidly written “top 10/top x” lists, barely worth reading on a website and a total waste in a print magazine. And let’s not forget the massive “cell phone games” reprints from their sister publications they keep bombarding me with: if I wanted coverage of cell phone games, I’d go buy a cell phone game magazine. With no genre focus areas and no regular personality columnists there really isn’t much left for me to pay for.

I have no plans now to renew when my subscription runs out. I wish Norm, Andy, Desslock, and the other regular columnists who got canned the best of luck. As for PC Gamer and the new editor in chief… I’m sure you just had a job to do, and did what you were told. Good luck pretending it was an improvement.

4 comments to PC Gamer jumps the shark, fires columnists

  • You still had a magazine subscription?

    I got rid of all my subscriptions when they started:

    a) not arriving at anything remotely on time … it looked like they were sending out the returns from the store shelves.
    b) ripping me off on the USD/CAD exchange.
    c) Giving me 48 pages in a $6 magazine
    d) Charging more for subscribing and paying in advance than what they charged on the shelf.

    And simply put, I can’t afford $70 – $100 dollars a year unless I get a LOT of enjoyment out of it. At a days pay for 12 magazine they better be very good.

    I still buy the occasional aviation magazine when one catches my eye, but I find that most of the types of magazine do not offer me anything that I cannot get on the web for free.

    And as you alluded to in your post, if a magazine doesn’t offer anything that’s worth paying for, why buy it?

  • I was paying about $40 a year: actually, I think for the three year subscription I took, it was under $80 or about $27 a year. In stores, PC Gamer sells for like $9 an issue (!!), and I was buying four or five issues a year: the subscription seemed like a pretty good deal. Back when PC Gamer had columnists (I.E.: two issues ago), I felt like it was keeping me up to date with the state of the gaming industry in a better way than trying to claw my way through the advertorials online.

    Not any more, though. Unless they have some really amazing content in the coming months, I’m doubtful I could even justify the $27 a year cost. Side note: I also still have a subscription to Discover magazine, and likewise I got it at a discounted three year rate that works out to a couple of bucks an issue. Discover is still “worth it” for me: it acts as sort of a jumping off point for me, giving me ideas to dig into on the web.

  • I quit discover because it cost me as much as buying it at the store and the monthly issues often took 2-3 months to arrive. That was a few years ago though so the rates might have improved.

    I actually like magazines. Easy to carry, I can read an entire article or two on my breaks, and unlike online I can access it anywhere there is enough light to see by. But I just can’t justify the cost of a subscription unless it’s giving me something I can’t get elsewhere.

    It would seem to me that the web = free low quality generally speaking ) and that magazines should therefore have a value added component: expert columnists or indepth investigations or the like. It’s like a newspaper that only prints storied verbatim from the wire services… why should I by the paper when I can just read Reuters? But do some good local investigative reporting; that’s worth paying for.

    Magazines need to provide that “added value.” If they try and compete with the web on basis of cost they cannot win – you can’t beat free

  • Discover is still working out for me price-wise- I think I signed up for three years on that as well, for something in the range of $100, or about $3 an issue. I think the cover price is about $6 an issue, so I’m getting (speaking generally) three years for the price of buying it in the store for one and a half years. Arguably, if I didn’t get it delivered I’d probably only buy four or five copies a year just because I’m lazy 😉

    I haven’t really noticed delivery being delayed much. Partly I suspect that is because I don’t actually watch for it: heck, I don’t even count how many issues I get each year, so I could be missing some. Its sort of like a “surprise” when a magazine arrives- I suppose this is what Alzheimer’s feels like 🙂 Seriously, though, the monthly subscriptions have that one value for me: a constant flow of “new” stuff that is moderately interesting, and which I probably wouldn’t pick up regularly if it didn’t just appear in my mail box.

    But I’m with you on the “added value” part- I still feel Discover gives me that, but not so much with PC Gamer. I know the magazines and periodicals in general are struggling financially and watching their audiences disappear at an alarming rate. But it doesn’t make sense to me, at least, to start chopping out the one thing they have over the web-based content: name-brand professional writers.

    One thing that has bugged me for years with PC Gamer: the CD/DVD it comes with every month. I’m sure that is a big part of the $8 per issue price ($2.50 per issue with my subscription), but I throw them away. I don’t like installing / uninstalling stuff on my PC all the time, and I guess the fact is I can get demos if I want them online. Now, if I had an XBox magazine that gave me a demo DVD every month I might use that: there is really no install process on the XBox, no “junk” left behind after every install/uninstall cycle. Maybe that’ll be my next magazine subscription…

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