The first issue of IndieGo Magazine was released at the end of last week. This paid-for “magazine for independent gaming” costs $1 for a digital .pdf version or $4 for a physical copy. For a brief period yesterday it was available to download free however I wasn’t aware of that until today!
It’s infamously difficult to get members of the GameMaker Community to buy anything so deciding to go along the paid-for route was at best an incredibly ambitious, if not entirely foolhardy route to go down. Especially when all your target customers have seen from you previously is a terribly low-quality “sample” issue which did little to inspire confidence in the project.
A monthly release schedule is planned. Even with the dollars flowing, or rather I suspect dripping in, I don’t see this release schedule with this price-point sticking around long.
For, as they describe themselves, a “business” planning to make money from such a product things were always going to be tricky. Arriving on the scene with a paid-for title seems rather presumptuous – people aren’t going to want to spend and try it out unless they know there are contributions from top-name writers and the magazine includes exclusive content they can’t get anywhere else. On the other-hand the idea of turning a free magazine into a paid publication doesn’t sound like it would end well either, even if they had managed to build up some kind of reputation with early free releases.
With the fee they simply won’t get the feedback they need to improve the issue, and who wants to write for a magazine which will invariably be read by a fraction of those who browse the free alternatives.
Is the answer advertisements? GameMaker Tech did towards the end of its lifespan carry paid adverts but the income they earned was derisory compared to the number of hours that was put into producing 17 issues by a group of willing community members. I just don’t think there is any place for a paid-for GameMaker media project however it is wrapped up – in this case as a more general indie gaming magazine.
By choosing to position the magazine down these lines the editors have instantly placed it against much tougher competition. IndieGo is now competing against far more formidable opposition – there is already the paid-for Indie Game Magazine for one, not to mention a whole host of indie gaming blogs and news sites, several of them with professional paid writers.
Okay I get the point – what about the actual magazine…
Is it a bad magazine? By GameMaker magazine standards – no, it’s probably above average for a first issue. True that doesn’t set the highest bar but we need to compare it with something.
It’s certainly not up there with one of the top magazines. At 15 pages it is much shorter than the most recent indie(Magazine) except as it doesn’t include any tutorials I imagine the number of articles and reviews is not much lower, although they are shorter and more poorly written.
The issue opens with the traditional message from the editor. “It is my job to read everything that gets put into the magazine and sieve out the typo’s…”. I wish I could believe that was intentional irony. Sadly I cannot.
You can win a copy of GameMaker 8.1 – ideal for the kind of person who is willing to take a punt with a $1 payment online but not spend $40 on an established piece of software. Still, one shouldn’t deride the magazine too much for this, they are at least offering a competition with a worthwhile prize, even if it’s selection at first seems oxymoronic given the presence of a cover price. You can see the details to enter, and read much of the magazine if you are willing to strain, by using the MagCloud issue preview.
I will admit here that this is how I am viewing the issue as nothing inspired me to buy this issue beforehand and after flicking through a few pages of the preview nothing changed my mind. There is a single column layout, basic white on blue and black on white headings and a few screenshots placed squarely on the pages.
The written content consists of a positive angle/press release for GameMaker creation A Shapian’s Tale which has been featured on indie(Radio) and looks like it might be a decent game.
Then comes a “review” of Anomaly Warzone which scores more “overall” than it does in any of the individual categories. The game is certainly described, something often lacking from reviews in newly-launched GameMaker magazines, but in this instance it is the review itself which is lacking. It’s far too short and, for a review, lacks opinion. The same could be said of the Pollushot review which follows, though looking back at my own review it looks like I fell into the same trap.
XBox Indie Game Avatar Farm and a Minecraft article follow together with a review of the “PC-Browser Based” game Metropolis Online which I couldn’t find. As none of the articles had obvious links to play or download the games I don’t think I would have been able to do so even if I had purchased the issue – a quick search bought up just a Superman game.
Writing at the YoYo Games forum topic chainsawkitten described the quality of the articles as “abysmal” and the style of the writing as “uninteresting and full of irrelevant rambles”. Like him I didn’t read every word.
The promised “latest and exclusive news on YoYo games” never materialised. With Kirsty saying the Dundee lot had been “involved with Indie Go” and the release originally scheduled for the same day as GameMaker:HTML5 I dared to believe it might actually contain such content. It didn’t. There were several competitions though, presumably 2 of them with prizes donated by YoYo Games.
GameMaker magazines have always had the perennial problem along the lines of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. Starting a magazine on your own or with a couple of friends is easy. Running a good magazine with a group of contributors issue after issue is hard.
The goal of the magazine publishers is “to spread the word of indie gaming to the world”. At $1 a time they won’t.
IndieGo magazine issue 1 is available to buy via HP for $1.
Edit Sep 27th – Future PDF versions of the magazine will be free (see comments).