Speaking of GamePro, has anyone else noticed the decidedly animated tilt the magazine has taken lately? Three of the last four issues have featured games based on cartoons right on the cover (#211, April 2006: Naruto; #212 May 2006: Family Guy; #214, July 2006: Super Dragon Ball Z). I suppose it serves a certain segment of the audience to feature popular games that wouldn’t rate more than a half-page preview in many magazines, but games based on cartoon licenses like this tend to be… how to put this… not good. There’s nothing in the text of these previews to indicate why the games deserve the cover treatment — they all seem like extremely generic cash-ins to me.
That’s OK though, because the games themsleves are almost incidental to these screenshot- and sidebar-filled previews. The 12-page feature for Family Guy in issue 212, for instance, barely ranks three-pages worth of actual “World Exclusive” game preview. The other nine pages are padded with screen grabs from the show and next-to-useless features like “Meet the Family” (a full-page description of the show’s main characters), “Comedy Sampler” (another full page on prime time cartoons that are similar to Family Guy) and “What Makes Family Guy So Freakin’ Sweet?” (a full page on fan sites’ responses to the titular question).
For reference, Game Informer’s world exclusive preview of Red Steel, the first game publicly announced fo the Nintendo Wii, spanned 13 pages. That’s only one page more than GamePro felt a license like Family Guy deserved.
Then there are the cross-marketing opportunities. The Naruto feature includes an “Ultimate Naruto Contest,” the Family Guy feature has a one-page ad for closely-related show American Dad, and the Dragon Ball Z cover loops around to a back page ad for the exact same game. Are cover features influencing ad buyers, or is the reverse happening? Hard to say, but the juxtaposition of cover features and related ads does come off as a little fishy.