Magazine Content

By: -=LRK=-  
Web Site: www.subdiv.net
Date: Pre-2005


Introduction
While this 'review' will focus on PC Gamer Magazine, make no mistake about it, every magazine I see out now seems to be falling into the same types of pitfalls design and content wise. The other magazine I read regularly, Maximum PC has similar types of problems. Since PC Gamer is a review magazine, and sometimes they are forced to give bad reviews to top hardware/software, I hope they will take this review with a grain of salt, and maybe even address some of these issues, rather than dismiss them.

As a consumer being asked to pay up to $7.99 an issue, I would expect some level of effort put into thier jobs, but for the life of me, I cannot find it. Every page cuts as many corners as possible while still getting the magazine out every month. Is it a cost factor, low staff, or is it just being lazy? These answers I simply cannot give you, but starting with the next paragraph, my opinions will be set aside, and I will offer to you nothing but the facts.

The Magazine - Content
Over the past year, there has been a serious degredation in content. This months magazine (Vol. 8, No.5 May 2001) contains 120 pages, of those, 47 are full page ads, 2 have 1/2 page ads, and 5 of them are BS pages noone reads anyways like the index. That leaves 67 from the original 120 pages which barely passes the half-way point. While there is a need for advertisers, nearly half the magazine is dead weight. This shows very little to talk about. Maximum PC has 96 pages and 28 of those are full page ads and 2 were BS pages. This leaves 66 pages of content to read. While it could be said that over 65 pages is good, I am bringing your attention to the "shelf-thickness". Which simply means that when the consumer is in the store, looking at the $7.99 price tag, it appears they are getting 120 pages. It is known that some of the pages are ads, it appears he is getting more than he really is. This could be called a "bait and switch". Once the consumer have made the purchase, what is inside is no longer relevant to the magazine company. They are now free to move onto next months issue.

Beyond the page count, what do they actually have to say? Not too much I am afraid. Here is an article that was chosen at random. This represents 90% of the reviews run by PC Gamer:



Most people might not notice the web address at the bottom (more on that later) or the design tricks. For example, the color orange at the topand bottom bleeding off the page are used to crate the illusion of the full page being used. The large title "Operation Flashpoint" is pushed more than an inch down the page and 1/2 inch over. The use of bold black boxes help to visually fill the otherwise huge white spaces.



See how much of the page is wasted on dead space? It's not done there, let's get rid of the rest of the black boxes, 2 small images, and the overly large image used to fill space.



Now you can see where I am going with this. One web site mentioned that http://www.subdiv.net has incredibly short reviews. I found this a strange comment, since I knew PC Gamer was worse. Maximum PC also employes these techniques, but thier reviews are usually slightly longer.

The HardStuff section would have gotten the worst of this article, except they seemed to have cleaned up most of the problems (like a full page cover and questions about peoples personal life). But it is constantly plagued by terrible layouts. Here is a 2 page spread from this months issue.



This is a review of a computer by Falcon. The first thing noticeable is the advertisement on the lower right. They have been doing this for awhile now to make the section appear larger than it really is. After this comes 2 pages of ads (not usually) then came the rest of this review followed by the second review, then questions. Apparently no other gaming related hardware devices other than these 2 came out during this review period, so they had to straech what they had.



Sure is alot of content there... all 5 pages could have been fit into 2 pages easily, by using the same type and image manipulation for good, instead of evil This would free up more space for more reviews. Maybe www.dailyrader.com could help you out.

The Q&A section of HardStuff is anything but hard. It is usually filled with basic questions and basic answers that even Venderman can't get right (3 months ago he said there was no USB support in Win95, which he recanted the following month).

The last bit about the HardStuff are system specifications for Entry, Midrange, and Dream System. This area has been inacurate for years, but I am sure the magazine stands by it 100%. For an entry level system, I would expect to cut corners where possible, and mabe spend a little more where needed. The fact is, an entry level system does NOT need $100 case with 300-watt power supply. I would go with an http://www.computergeeks.com special at $22.95 and use the other $77.05 for something else, like better RAM, since the RAM they recommend will ONLY work with that motherboard. If you upgrade, you need new ram. Since the ram can only be purchased on the internet, I can recomened a case only on the internet.

The midrange system seems fine, but I just can't shake the feeling that the 256 Stick of Ram for $48.00 won't work in that Asus A7V Motherboard. I could be wrong, but I think you need different ram costing twice as much. Since they recommend spending that much anyways, another $40.00 for better ram won't hurt. The Dream System seems to be riddled with problems as well. Buying RDRAM isn't dreamy, it's just dumb, so is the P4 at $585.00. Money is no object? Then why the Sound Blaster Live at $69.00 instead of the Platinum at $199.00? With a 1.5 Ghz machine, I don't think a DVD decoder is really necessary. If they could suggest a GeForce3, why not a Plextor 16x, rather than the 12x? This type of thinking has been going on forever, why change now?


The Magazine - CD-ROM Demos
This is supposed to be the creme of the crop. After all, you ARE paying the extra $2.00 an issue for it, right? This issue comes with a whopping 7 demos, plus the extra garbage that they won't get rid of. Darkstar has been on like every CD for 2 YEARS now, They Hunger for over a year, and They Hunger 2 for almost a year now. I think you've gotten your money's worth already, let it go. Besides, They Hunger is horrible. Is it possible for them to say anything besides "Food"? Plot, what plot? That's OK, they have They Hunger 3 comming out, can't wait.

Anyways, 7 demos. The 'Big" game is Duke Nuke'Em 3d. It's what, 6 years old? It's not so much that it's included, but that it's the biggest name on the CD, which is sad unto itself. The CD says "...in high resolution..." then the magazine says "...get over the blocky graphics...". Let's move on, there are 6 other titles on the CD that is self-proclaimed "The Bomb" (I wonder why). Desperado if the only title on this CD that can considered 'new' since I didn't find a demo on the web. Giants was out 02/01/01, NBA 2001 was out 02/07/01, and Naboo was out 02/22/01. Since the magazine itself gave Naboo a 15%, I know I can't wait to play it. Alliance was out 02/24/01 and Nascar4 was out way back in 12/05/00. Not only is there junk on the CD, it's old junk. Time factor? I know, but December? Come on guys. By the time the CD arrives on shelves, the patches included are usually outdated and no longer compatable. If you can't do any better on the Demo CD, then why bother.

The Web - Content in a Timely Fashion
The magazine is plagued with time sensitive issues, so the best place for content is the web site right? Wrong, when I went there, the content was the last issue, even though I've had the new one for days.


The site itself turned into an advertising feast, just like the magazine. I had 3 pop-up windows and Playboy.com banner. Why in the world would a video game magazine advertise with playboy?!? They must pay well, I guess, but still inappropriate when your target audience includes 13 year olds.

When I saw a review for Black and White, I clicked on it, and was taken to www.dailyradar.com, which explained the site name at the bottom of the magazine pages. This led me to ask the question of: Who writes the magazine? If editorial content was handled separate from the reviews, then what is the problem with not having anything to say? If there were 20 people pressed for time being game players/reviewers/designers, I could live with short reviews, but obviously, they aren't even doing that. You have reviewers, article writers, designers, and editorial as well. Sounds like alot of people not doing much all month, and it shows.

Conclusion
Maybe I have gone overboard with this article. I never once thought I had this much to say about the magazine. I expected 3-4 paragraphs to vent a years worth of frustration, and yet I've had more to say about the magazine, than the magazine has to say in all thier reviews combined. I am sure the only people to read this whole thing are the people on the PC Gamer staff, but maybe they will see what they are doing in a whole new light. They will understand that they are now putting out a sub-standard product. Maybe they will... nah. It's going to be the same crap next month, and worse a year after that.


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