A new magazine is about to enter the scene, just as many are hollering about the death of print - but Grab It Magazine will reach no such tangible papery tomes. It’s intended as a iPad mag, and we spoke to the founder, and former editor of Game Informer AU, Chris Stead, to find out more.
It’s a funny thing, actually: Print is far from dead. Not only does Game Informer AU, with its EB Games distribution deal, continually post record readerships, but local mainstay PC PowerPlay was up 22% last year - largely due to the editorial wizardry of Editor Daniel Hindes, and an increased focus on the indie scene.
Stead has similar ideas, and believes the time is right for media-rich tablet mags. He’s done his research before making the leap, and we picked his brain about what the new mag will have to offer.
“We created it specificaly to exist within the ecosystem of the games,” says Stead. “You can read in on your iPad, and it's about iPad games. In doing that, we've managed to maximise the digital format, and use its strengths to make something you wouldn't have seen before.”
Grab It is an “indie for the indies”, a “downloadable for the downloadable gaming scene.” Its focus is on downloadable iOS games, with a view to possibly covering other devices in the future. It’s the newest entrant in the small but growing field of outlets dedicated to giving attention to indie developers — mainstream coverage dips its toe in the indie scene, but it’s not where the money is.
“Traditional outlets are going to struggle to give indies lots of space, the best staff in terms of writing and design, and the coverage it can give to the games,” says Stead. “I've got no hate for that model - I still love my console and PC blockbuster magazines - you just can't find the space for a small 4 man team working out of their garage, making something quirky. It's not going to get a 5 page feature in a mag. We're starting to see that a bit — for the first time those outlets are being confronted with the indie scene in a new way, thanks to the indie channels on Xbox One and PS4. But it's a dead end — they're never going to have 5 grand to spend on an ad.”
Grab It will be sustained through sales, as well as a portion of the money from app sales going to the mag, if the purchaser clicked through from a story or review in the magazine. But those clicks through are just a “small piece of the pie”, according to Stead.
“We don't need as big an investment to get out the door, and that takes the pressure off in some capacity, but we still need to drive a hell of a lot of people through the magazine to make it sustainable. There's a lot of experimentation in this magazine. We can't just drop a Call of Duty on the cover and let that be the business for us. So a lot of what we're doing is getting it out there and getting traction.”
While the global launch of Issue 1 is expected later on, a free Issue 0 teaser has been released with a fair bit of content to show off the the mag will be like. Highlights are an interview with David Helgason, CEO of Unity, which powers many indie games these days, and another talk with former Halo developer Ryan Payton, creator of the issue’s cover game, Republique.
The mag promises to showcase video covers, as well as visual and aural media in the backgrounds of reviews, with content that readers can enjoy how they wish - be that skipping to the verdict, expanding a full review, or clicking through for extra content, such as an interview with the game’s developer or the game store itself. Issue 0 showcases a review of Republique, a game about security cameras, with screenshots that can be touched and dragged, in the style of a security camera, for the reader to see more of the scene. Stead hopes these ideas will keep people talking about the mag.
“Every mention is so valuable. One of the biggest things it does is throw a lot of support to these indie developers. You can see how one person saying on a tweet, ‘I loved Grab It’ - how much difference that can make, just one person. So I'd encourage all the readers to check it out, and if you like what you see, help spread the word.”