Australian Game Magazines Take A Circulation Hit

As someone who started their career in magazines and still loves magazines very much, the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures makes for grim reading. Sales are down, almost universally across the board, and video game magazines aren't exempt from the impact.

Magazine pic from Shutterstock

In relative terms, Tech Life was the worst hit, dropping from 14,894 to 11,116 -- a 25.4% drop. Game Informer, a massive success story locally, also took a big hit dropping from 40,004 to 32,611. That makes for a 22.1% audience loss. PC & Tech Authority dropped 19% from 13,843 to 11,221. APC fell 8.8% from 18,461 to 16,837.

Title Jul-Dec 2014 Jan-Jun 2014 Jul-Dec 2013 Jan-Jun 2013 Jul-Dec 2012 Jan-June 2012 Jul-Dec 2011
Tech Life 11,116 12,727 14,894 20,899 27,219 28,022 33,205
Game Informer 32,611 40,376 40,004 45,090 52,816 50,893 39,196
PC & Tech Authority 11,211 12,290 13,843 15,175 16,633 17,207 20,030
APC 16,837 18,174 18,467 21,643 20,605 21,612 24,580

The numbers are starting to get quite low. From the table above we can see that magazine circulation has been dropping fairly consistently over the past few years, with the exception of Game Informer, which had a fairly stratospheric rise and is now feeling the crunch. Many other game magazines -- like Hyper, and the Official PlayStation and Xbox magazines -- didn't pay to be part of the audit, so it's difficult to get a broad view of where the market is, but the outlook isn't pretty.

However, the issue isn't exclusive to game and tech magazines -- the drop is almost unilateral across all titles. Only a handful of magazines reported growth in circulation over the past six months. The vast, vast majority reported drops in circulation. Dolly suffered the biggest hit with a massive 42.2 drop in circulation. Even Frankie -- one of Australia's most consistent high performers -- suffered its first circulation drop ever, losing 3.5% of its audience.

The truth of it is, less and less people are reading magazines. That much is clear. Obviously video game magazines are going to be hit as part of that trend. That's a shame. Some of Australia's best game journalists are still employed in print, and I'd like to see more people read their work.

Thanks to Angus Kidman for the above table


Comments

    No PC PowerPlay?
    I still feel a little guilty for dropping that subscription after nearly a decade, but the value wasn't there for me any more.

      I still feel guilty over falling behind on reading Hyper all those years ago, and eventually dropping my sub because it just seemed like a waste of money.

        Waste of money is definitely how I saw Hyper, even after being an active sub for almost 5-6 years and having over 200 issues of the magazine, they lost me as a reader during the last generation when they went very pro Xbox360 and found every opportunity to deride the PS3.

        The writers got full of themselves and they had their short lived memes which seemed a little tryhard. It just lost its appeal to me I suppose. They had some great writers and great editors there, and I used to love their arcade reviews by Tim (he used to review the games in our Sydney store). Their Japan specials were also pretty good reading.

        Is that magazine even around? Last thing I read on Facebook about them was they were now printing every 3 months

          Hypers' been around since 1993. I just bought issue 257 last week. Never heard of this ''pro xbox360'' Hyper magazine you are talking about...

            Yeah, Hyper lost me at about 2011... and so did most gaming mags. Which I feel incredible guilt over, but all the mags I liked had jumped so far up in price that I was having a hard time justifying the purchases to myself. Could I spend $100+ a month on all the mags I really liked, or would I rather just put that into my gaming and hang more in the gaming forums I liked? I chose the latter. If I cut one magazine, I had to cut them all.

            Since then, I've had to throw out my 3000+ gaming mags I'd accumulated since 1992... was a horrible day that was. Having to carry 3000 magazines on top of moving three times in less than two years was a nightmare.

              Yeah I donated about 100 issues of the AU Playstation Mag and it's demo discs after a few moves. Regret it now :-( Some of the demo's probably had some desirable indie games on them too - they used to include net yaroze made games heh.

                Oh absolutely regret it. I regret it every day. I used to read them often - if ever I was bored, I'd just pick up one of my old Saturn mags. Can't do that now. Though, luckily, there's a LOT of them uploaded in PDF format. It doesn't smell the same though :(

                Don't worry they've all been ripped and are on the net - though I think the PAL PS1 demo collection is incomplete... haven't checked in a long while though.

                  Oh that's good! I randomly found a PS1 demo for MGS/Tomb Raider on the sidewalk the other week lol!

                  I used to find stuff like this on UG before they got shut down... I need to check in on the status of their replacement actually hmm..

              I hear ya on Magazine transportation - magazines way a tonne when they are all together! Yeah, Hyper cost $3.95 back at the start, though their price has been pretty fair over the years compared to others. Still $9.95 too.

              Game Informer is $4.95, but that is just a Gamestop/EBgames rag now (they were bought out by Gamestop a year or two ago...).

              Did you donate the magazines? You didn't dump them did you!? You could of gotten $10 each at the very least on eBay...

                The last move was very spur of the moment (broke up with the ex), so yeah, I ended up giving them to my grandfather, who took them off my hands and got rid of them for me. I kinda do wish I sold them, but the hassle wasn't really worth it. And at the time, I was very bitter - so if I couldn't have them, nobody could, haha!

                  Same happened to me (in moving, having to make room/least amount of "loads") with the Official Australian PlayStation Magazine (PS1 the original), had the complete series, ended up chopping out all the awesome artwork and gave them to my little sisters to make collages... All other magazines came second to Hyper magazine and RetroGamer (and still do).

          Hyper is the root of of gaming literature evil. Have a skim through some of the old magazines - I challenge you to find ONE issue that didn't have glaring spelling, grammar, structure or context errors. Couple that with just general shit material, then Hyper can die a horrible death of cancer of the eyes.

          I hate this crap in everyday life - I'll be buggered if I'm going to support a bunch of people who are supposed to do this as a career. This is what happens when you get 'Comms' and 'Media' graduates thinking they can do journalism - speciality or otherwise.

          /rant

            My first comment ever just to fully agree with you. Every time I read that magazine I thought about applying for the editors job. It was soooo annoying with the sheer volume of errors.

            Like that "blau" shit they used to do..... uuugh.. and "Does Mannerisms"...

            The Hyper magazine I read, only contains one or two errors at most, per issue. Maybe it is your spelling which is flawed.

            Hyper magazine is also one of the most successful magazines in the world - in print for over 257 straight months.

            'I, random commenter, is far superior, to all things that I am not good enough to be part of in the first place.'

            Last edited 18/02/15 5:54 pm

      I still read PC Powerplay, and PC & Tech Authority, as well as a few others such as Australian Geographic, New Scientist, T3 - basically alot of the ones that I used to spend a fortune on a decade ago. And I get them all for free via my local library through Zinio http://www.library.act.gov.au/eresources/zinio . I can read them on my pc, phone or tablet (on Surface Pro 3 magazines look AMAZING, really highlights the production values traditional media retains). I think some other states library systems might do a similar thing via Zinio as well.

    I used to get heaps of game mags mostly the ones that came with demo disc's

    I stopped getting playstation mags when they dropped the playable demos and once steam sales picked up I cut down on PC Powerplay

    The only time I’ll ever buy a game magazine anymore is if I’m going on a long flight or away on holidays.

    When you think back to a time when you couldn’t get reviews easily on the internet, wouldn’t have access to gaming news until these magazines hit the shelves, couldn’t stream videos of the games you wanted, couldn’t download demo’s or betas….. THOSE were the days when gaming magazines were awesome.

    Now I’ve normally seen footage online a year out, I read the previews in the weeks leading up to the game, I get reviews on (or around) launch day and if I know it’s something I really want then there’s every chance that I’ll have finished the game by the time the latest Hyper hits the shelves to tell if it’s any good.

    Looking back on how much everything has changed I’m surprised the market is still as diverse as it is to be honest.

    While I'm loathe to bring up an American-as-all-get-out option to help what is a local issue, could crowd-funded magazines come into their own in this country?

      This is a great idea. Only problem would be the postage costs to get it out to people. It costs like $20 now to send a letter. (Exaggerating of course, but it's crazy expensive).

        I'm sure if there is going to be decent ongoing volume (like a magazine) you would be able to negotiate a better deal.

      When it boils down to it, what's the difference between a crowd funded model and a monthly subscription?
      The only thing missing from the crowd funded model is the as hoc sales stream from traditional distribution I.e. newsagents.

      To clarify: I'm not trying to be a smartarse, this is a genuine question as I'm having trouble coming up with enough distinguishing difference between the 'new' crowdfund process vs the 'old' pay for a subscription process.

        provided you had a large enough audience. You could have a specific print run that covers the copies you will sell as opposed to needing extras sent out to newsagents etc in order to sell to the impulse buyer.

        That's why every 3-6 months you'd end up with a free older issue of the magazine bundled in with the new one. Because all that excess stock gets bundled up and sent back. With the cost mostly pushed onto the printer/publisher IIRC. As a cost of doing business because otherwise the newsagents would always under order(better to not sell a magazine because you ran out than to get stuck with 5 copies you can't sell)

        So potentially costs would be less. It could also result in super targeted demographics from the crowd funding data which assuming you still put advertising in the thing could potentially allow for a higher ad sale rate, although conversely bad demographics could tank the value as well.

        And if you could run articles that are more targeted at the userbase you serve as opposed to a 4 page expose on something that half your readers might have no interest in

    I wonder if they'll have a resurgence kinda like how vinyl did for a while. I'll file the experience of flicking through a gaming magazine back in the 90s/00s as one of my fondest memories.

    Hyper's circulation is definitely down. They just moved from monthly to quarterly.

      Wow, I hadn’t heard that.

      I don’t know how that’s going to work, unless you absolutely pack it with interviews and stuff…. 3 months is an eternity in games and nobody wants their reviews 3 months after a game launches.

      I mean how to you manage your Christmas rush issue so that people have it in time to make decisions without missing out on any stragglers that get released in the first week of December?

      That’s really a terrible sign for that magazine. I don’t know what their online plan is but I’m hoping that they’ve got a sound financial model set up for when the print magazine dies.

      Because thats how they can stay on top of breaking news. Quarterly. May as well call it quits.

        They stopped the whole 'breaking news' thing years ago. They really went to town on articles and opinion pieces while online was taking off. It saved their bacon, imo, and they saw the way things were heading a long time before it all came to pass.

        Last edited 13/02/15 2:01 pm

          I didn't know about Hyper going quarterly till now (I quit my subscription about a decade ago), but it makes sense. There's no way print can keep up with instant breaking news online, nor does news even occur on a predictable monthly schedule.

          If I'm buying a magazine, it has to offer something that a website doesn't: editorials, interviews, flashbacks, beautiful spreads. I'll happily buy a magazine if I appreciate the writer. It's the reason I still buy Empire Magazine. No one does what Empire does, but a million gaming websites do what Hyper used to.

    It's a shame Hyper is actually a great magazine, I still feel they could've pushed the digital format more heavily - I lived in London for 5 years and couldn't buy it from over there. They only started publishing it on iPad and Android a couple of years ago - if they'd released the digital format at the same time as physical, then I reckon they could've kept it going monthly. There's a market for 'take your time to review it properly' IMHO. Shame.

      theres a market for everything, doesn't necessarily make it profitable or worth going after though

    Do they have digital versions of their magazines? I know they're different, but digital versions of model railway magazines are on the up in terms of subscribers while I'd imagine printed magazines are slowly declining.

    Given the industry of this though, I'd fully expect game magazines to be declining. Their readers are, for the most part, at the forefront of technology and that means staring at a screen/tablet/phone these days. This also means that every man and his dog has a website given away the same 'news' as the next. So many different game news sites, Kotaku, Gamesradar, IGN all quote each other (or Famitsu for the Japanese side of things). Magazines can't afford to put into print what people put on the internet for a margin of the cost, plus dynamic advertising online is probably more profitable than a printed advert that's most likely out of date by the time people have it in their hands

    If magazines are still the backbone of these brands, I can't help but ask why they haven't migrated to a more digital-centric model. I think print media is likely to die out altogether in our lifetime, if not soon after.

      Hopefully it’ll be WELL before the end of our lifetime, unless you’re already in your 80’s and about to die.

      I mean people will still write things down for the immediate future, but as a commercial business selling print copies on niche topics will be unheard of by the time today’s children get into highschool.

      In a world where physical sales of newspapers that appeal to older people are dwindling, the idea of selling tech-based information to tech-savvy people on print media is just crazy. Sure some people like magazines still, but as we’re seeing it’s already too few to justify printing Hyper every month.

      Ask yourself: if you’re a 12 year old now and you’ve always had instant access to free games news, previews and reviews, you can download demos, watch HD videos directly from your console and are used to reading these things on your smarkphone that’s always on you; what on earth would make you want to fork out $10-15 for a games magazine with screenshots and week-old at best news?

      People like me still do it occasionally because I remember it fondly (I’m 30), but it’d never cross the minds of the next generation.

    I used to love getting NMS or N64 gamer in the early N64 era. That was when the internet was really starting to get mainstream. It was just great to have it right there, in your hands, no waiting for stuff to load on a 56k modem.

    I used to buy a few gaming mags for my kid, but haven't seen them in months at our news agency, it seems they no longer stock them. When I asked about them, I was told that they were only selling what they were given to sell and unless I placed a regular order for specific titles... which I didn't want to do as I only buy them when I can afford them (they are expensive!). The only one they seem to have now is Retro Gamer.

    But yeah, that aside the cost is fairly prohibitive I find. $10-$20 for a magazine depending on the title, for semi-old information that you probably read online a month or two ago. I can see why sales are in decline.

      Interestingly, my local newsagent stopped stocking Retro Gamer out of the blue...

      Distributers with vested interest?

    Been a while since I've last bought a magazine.

    I have an e-sub to one mag (not gaming related). Means I don't have to wait 2 months for it to ship to Australia plus its cheaper.

    In a world of smartphones and tablets I fear printed magazines may go the same way as news reels, telegrams and rotary dial telephones.

    I didn't even think there still were gaming magazines. I think C+VG was the last gaming mag I bought (in about 1993).

    I'm going to let my White Dwarf subscription run out after those cunts at GW changed the format and split it into two separate magazines. Money-grubbing arseholes!

    ...And the only way to help is to buy magazines. Try it! You may even remember the quality, of written word, that isn't just 24/7 drip-fed, click-bait, 144 character, coprographia.

    Real-life print has a higher resolution than a screen too. Actual paper and ink atoms!

      Not really. Print is still limited by the printer's dpi. A high resolution monitor will provide text and images with far higher spatial resolution than the typical magazine.

        Pixels are made of atoms. The frame rate is much higher when actual light is reflected off of solid matter. As seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOXQo7nURs0

          I know what you're referring to, but that's like saying a mylar print offers better spatial resolution to a diagnostic monitor. It's not necessarily true; because while physical grains of silver atoms do offer better 'resolution' than a screen, it's not a perfect capture. A magazine page is not a 35mm slide or even a microfiche, it's a facsimile imperfectly recreated by a commercial printing press and thus limited by specifications. The only thing you're experiencing in 'higher resolution' on a magazine page is noise and for most of us in the field, it's highly undesirable.

            Yet in print media, dpi is literally dots-per-square-inch.

              I know... and my point exactly. 'Page is higher resolution than screen' is a canard, because you're observing a copy of an original (higher resolution) image or text in a magazine, which is limited by the dpi of the printer (as mentioned). In most publications, this is ~300 dpi, which is an acceptable balance between expense, quality and time. However, this is still lower than high res screens in 2015, and you're going to get additional print artefacts.

                ...And that's the difference between a "rag" and a "Glossy." What are we even talking about now? :P

    How do those figures stack up to these readership results?
    http://www.roymorgan.com/industries/media/readership/magazine-readership
    Not sure who Angus Kidman is but at this stage I'd believe a research firms results over those values??

    PCTA = 107k readers according to them, not 12k
    Techlife = 57K, not 12k
    Game Informer = 193K, not 40k
    APC = 112k, not 18k

    Ha I used to write for Megazone (which predates Hyper), Hyper, PC Powerplay (back in early 90s) and PC User (for many years) - it was great to be part of that era - tons of great games and mags like PC User used to have circulation of 70k+ and a pretty big readership. Back then publishers like ACP had loads of money so it was a valid career path - sad to see this is becoming less viable.

    I think Hyper and other mags from that independent publisher struggled a bit with quality of sub-editing and graphic design because the guy who owned them was notoriously stingy and many of the writers were never paid but settled for free games. I shudder to think what the full-time staff were paid (not much I think) - but most of them still thought it was a dream job and did it out of love for the subject matter.

    It was a lot of fun going into Redfern regularly and shooting the breeze about the latest and greatest games with Stuart Clarke and Ben Mansill back in the early days.

    Very sad to see PC User being mutated into Techlife and gradually dwindling down to what I can only imagine is an unsustainable, tiny circulation.

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