Gaming mags suffering

Latest circulation figures make for grim reading

The UK print magazine sector has suffered hugely disappointing ABC figures, despite the best ever year for games software sales.

Future maintained its vice like grip of the market, with close to 70 per cent market share, while its competitors Paragon, Dennis, EMAP and Computec Media struggled with some largely desperately poor results.

The leading magazine by some margin was Future's Official PlayStation 2 Magazine, with monthly sales averaging 197,348 from July 1st to December 31st 2002 - up a disappointing one per cent on the previous period; and with around 4.5 million UK PS2 owners, the flat growth has not kept up with the explosion in the PS2's installed base.

But there was better news for Future's sister company, with Official Xbox Magazine posting a July-Dec figure of 57,809 - up 50.5 per cent, but its unofficial mag X Gamer (now called Xbox Gamer) dropped dramatically to 33,484 to 23,033 - down 45 per cent. EMAP's Official Nintendo Magazine rose by 21.6 per cent to 51,096, but its readership continues to be well below its glory days.

Multi-format mags had mixed results, with Edge dropping to just 28,126 - down from 31,063 in the previous audit period. C&VG inched up by three per cent to 33,033, while Future's GamesMaster fared best, up 11.2 per cent to 65,231.

PC magazines continued to decline, with PC Gamer dropping from 80,413 to 76,059, while Dennis' PC Zone continued its freefall, going from 56,457 to 51,088 in the period. Computech's PCG was not audited, and is now being relaunched as PC Gaming World.

More bad news elsewhere, with Future's PSM 2 dropping from 81,464 to 70,049, Computec's PSW down from 89,273 to 76,293. Paragon's Cube debuted at 31,501. Several magazines were not tracked in the audit, including the highly regarded Games TM, PC Format, and PSi2.

While we're obviously biased towards Internet publishing, it's certainly interesting to see how tough the market is. But with newsagent shelves groaning under the weight of around 30 games magazines every month, are there simply too many of them to choose from?

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