The consensus seems to be that right now is not a good time to be in the print magazine business. Across the industry, newsstand sales fell 6.3 percent in the first half of 2009 and overall circulation has been flat. The narrower gaming niche is still reeling from the January shuttering of Electronic Gaming Monthly after a successful 20-year run. All over the media landscape, you don’t have to look very hard to find people proclaiming matter-of-factly that magazines are dead.
So it seems an odd time to announce a new 148-page quarterly magazine, focused on a single game, with no advertising pages, no newsstand sales and expensive, high-quality paper stock. Yet that’s exactly what Future Publishing is doing with World of Warcraft: The Magazine (WoW:TM), announced last week at Anaheim’s BlizzCon fan festival. What’s more, Future is doing it with a unique editorial and business plan that might just be crazy enough to work.
Take the 376 West through Pittsburgh, then go down 279 South five miles or so, out to the sleepy suburb of Carnegie, Penn. Cruise down the four-lane Main Street, past the abandoned used car lot and the Wheel and Wedge sandwich shop (“Foot-long sub special: $3.99 + tax”). Hang a left across the Hammond Street Bridge to the industrial park on the other side of Chartiers Creek.
For 360 days out of the year, the big white building next to the Clark-Fishman Flooring Solutions warehouse looks like just another underused industrial property. But for four days in August (and a one-night charity event in February), the warehouse opens its doors to reveal over 30,000 square feet of immaculate space, housing over 400 pinball machines and classic arcade games. Welcome to the annual World Pinball Championships, put on for the 12th time in 2009 by the Professional & Amateur Pinball Association (PAPA).
It’s a sign of pinball’s recent tough times that the game’s premier tournament has to take place in such a remote and seemingly inauspicious setting. But it’s hard to feel gloomy about pinball’s fate standing inside the sprawling PAPA headquarters, listening to hundreds of pristine, playable pinball tables dating back to the ’40s fill the air with their clanging. There’s a nervous energy as hundreds of attendees mill about the wide aisles, feed tokens into random machines, gently jostle cabinets to avoid gutters, talk strategy with old friends, or simply look on respectfully as the best of the best show off their skills.
For the 2,000 fans and nearly 400 competitors that will stream through the doors over these four August days, this obscure warehouse is the center of a vibrant, competitive pinball subculture that is far from dead. This is the story of just some of those people.
A casual football fan spends the night observing some Madden experts, and lives to tell the tale.
By any measure, the Madden NFL series is a bona fide videogame phenomenon. Since its start on the Apple II way back in 1989, the series has consistently been at or near the top of the year-end videogame sales charts, generating over $2 billion in cumulative sales for publisher EA Sports. The game is a favorite among sports stars and celebrities, who frequently mention it as a favorite time-waster at home and during long road trips.
Madden’s popularity has spawned the Madden Challenge, a nationwide tournament with thousands of Madden players competing in 18 cities for a $50,000 top prize, and “Madden Nation,” a reality-television competition entering its fifth season on ESPN2 this fall. The Madden Curse, an urban myth surrounding the unlucky fate awaiting anyone picked as a Madden cover athlete, has become a household term, and a 2005 deal with the NFL has turned Madden into the only officially licensed version of America’s most popular sport.
This is a game that is almost impossible to ignore. And yet, for most of my life, I have successfully ignored it.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Filed under Crispy Gamer
, Published Works
, Video Games
Given its standing among developers, critics and fans, it’s surprising that there aren’t more games that blatantly rip off Super Metroid. Where Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter II and DOOM inspired whole movements of cash-in clones, Super Metroid‘s distinct item-based, nonlinear action-platforming has been confined primarily to two franchises: Metroid itself and Konami’s Castlevania series.
There are a few exceptions in recent memory — indie hit Cave Story, for one — but the subgenre has been coined “Metroidvania” precisely because of those two series. With the release of Shadow Complex, though, the genre may just have to be renamed. I’m still undecided on what that new name should be. Metroidvaniacomplex? Shadowmetroidvania?
When I got done writing my Wii Sports Resort review last week, I looked around at some of the other reviews out there to see how my opinion matched up with the consensus. I wasn’t that surprised to see other critics give the game generally good but not spectacular reviews, earning it a good but not spectacular metascore of 80 on review aggregator Metacritic.
What did surprise me, however, was the wide range of opinions on each individual sport within the game.
There were a few offerings that the critics universally loved or hated, but opinions on the majority of the WSR mini-games ran the gamut from exquisite to execrable. While most of the final review scores for the game fell into a relatively narrow range, the particular way each critic arrived at those scores seemed to vary wildly. And while Metacritic gives a good aggregate opinion for the game as a whole, it doesn’t break down the critical consensus on each individual sport.
To fix this oversight, I decided to use a bit of pseudo-statistical analysis to figure out which sport was the generally agreed-upon “best” one on the disc. Call it boredom, call it morbid curiosity, call it a need to have my opinions validated by an outside force; but I just had to know. And once I knew, of course, I had to share it with you.