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Magazines Hold Their Own In an Interactive Age

The game magazine sector remains healthy even as many game companies become convinced that online is playing an increasingly important role in buying decisions. The latest circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show incremental gains in average monthly circulation during the first half of 2004 compared to the same period in 2003. Only Game Informer experienced explosive growth, however, moving its paid circulation figure up to 1.64 million, more than triple its nearest competitors Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro. GI subscriptions were up 36.3% over the year ago period, and even single copy sales, which has never been a strong suit in this category, were up 19.2%.

While overall growth of the video game consumer base is not generally reflected in magazine readership in the category, the increased penetration of Microsoft's Xbox is having an effect. Future Publishing's Official Xbox Magazine had notable growth, with total paid circulation up 13.6% and single copy sales up a very strong 27%. In fact, of OXM's 406,176 paid readers, 138,302 are buying single copies at the newsstand, an exceptionally strong percentage. This may be a testament to the power of packed-in, playable discs. At the same time, Ziff-Davis's Official Playstation Magazine seems to be in decline, with two consecutive halves of circulation erosion, now down to 264,432.

In another Ziff/Future head-to-head, Future Publishing appears to be on top. ZD's PC-focused Computer Gaming World is down to 202,359 paid circulation in the fist half of 2004, off from 260,012 in the same half 2003. Future's PC Gamer, however, is resilient despite the decline in PC game sales, maintaining a 304,110 base.

Following the Eyeballs?

While no one doubts that more buying decisions and media spending are being done online, even a cursory look at Web traffic rankings in the category reveals a lot of wasted opportunity. According to select traffic figures in the game category from HitWise, the eyeballs are not only flowing to the big two, IGN and GameSpot, although both venues do attract massive traffic. There are a number of under-utilized online venues, especially among the independent sites hosting cheats and tips (see chart).

Despite massive traffic, many of the independent tips and cheat sites carry little game advertising. At CheatPlanet.com, for instance, the slots are filled with non-endemic advertising from major telco brands but not a lot of games promotion, despite a 5 million monthly unique user base and 50 million page views (according to the company specs.). Likewise, Cheat Codes Central claims 6 million uniques and 70 million page views, yet few games marketers seem to avail themselves of this venue, where 74% of the audience is between the ages of 13 and 24. Cheat and tips sites are getting active game buyers who are drilling into content related to games the visitors already own and play. This is as good a way of targeting game consumers by genre tastes as we can imagine, but where are the game companies exploiting this? Games marketers need to venture beyond the beaten path of media spending if they really want to capture broader audiences and emerge from the game ad clutter.

Game Magazine Circulation, 2003 - 2004
Title: Computer Gaming World
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 202,359
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 270,014
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 260,012

Title: Electronic Gaming Monthly
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 514,058
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 570,309
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 505,569

Title: GamePro
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: -
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 509, 943
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 554,335

Title: Game Informer
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 1,647,350
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 1,425,683
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 1,095,841

Title: GMR
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04:
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03:
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 251,891

Title: Official U.S. Playstation Magazine
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 264,432
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 301,024
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 283,827

Title: Official Xbox Magazine
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 406,176
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 403,222
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 344,731

Title: PC Gamer
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 304,110
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 307, 691
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 300,271

Title: PSM
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 400,318
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 401,890
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 403,617

Title: Tips and Tricks
Paid Circ. 1/04 - 6/04: 146,566
Paid Circ. 7/03 - 12/03: 132,702
Paid Circ. 1/03 - 6/03: 145,925

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulation. Note: Second half circulation figures for game magazines typically spike up because of the holiday buying season and increased newsstand sales, so most titles show a natural, mild decline in the 1st half of the year.

Top Game Information Sites (Aug. 2004)

These rankings come from the Hitwise traffic monitoring system, which measures online behavior from millions of users anonymously from their ISPs. The "rank" here indicates the site's market share rank (measured by monthly visitors) within the larger universe of all games-related sites, including download and online play portals as well as fantasy sports. We have culled from the category, the editorially-driven sites. The "market share number indicates the share of traffic coming to this site from the entire gaming category. The two top traffic-earners according to Hitwise, Gamefaqs and GameSpot, are owned by CNet and they send traffic to one another. The rankings are a bit misleading, since IGN's traffic is broken down into several high-ranking sub-hubs for the various console platforms as well as a cheats area, so in aggregate the network should rank higher on the list than indicated.

Aug. 2004 Rank: 8
Site: Gamefaqs (www.gamefaqs.com)
Market Share: 2.28%
July 2004 Rank: 8
June 2004 Rank: 8
May 2004 Rank: 8

Aug. 2004 Rank: 10
Site: GameSpot (www.gamespot.com)
Market Share: 1.17%
July 2004 Rank: 11
June 2004 Rank: 11
May 2004 Rank: 11

Aug. 2004 Rank: 12
Site: CheatPlanet (www.cheatplanet.com)
Market Share: 0.86%
July 2004 Rank: 12
June 2004 Rank: 12
May 2004 Rank: 12

Aug. 2004 Rank: 19
Site: Cheat Code Central (www.cheatcc.com)
Market Share: 0.64%
July 2004 Rank: 15
June 2004 Rank: 17
May 2004 Rank: 22

Aug. 2004 Rank: 20
Site: Gamefaqs Message Boards
Market Share: 0.64%
July 2004 Rank: 20
June 2004 Rank: 22
May 2004 Rank: 27

Aug. 2004 Rank: 21
Site: IGN (www.ign.com)
Market Share: 0.61%
July 2004 Rank: 23
June 2004 Rank: 24
May 2004 Rank: 23

Aug. 2004 Rank: 28
Site: IGN Codes (codes.ign.com)
Market Share: 0.46%
July 2004 Rank: 28
June 2004 Rank: 25
May 2004 Rank: 28

Aug. 2004 Rank: 33
Site: IGN Playstation 2 (ps2.ign.com)
Market Share: 0.37%
July 2004 Rank: 35
June 2004 Rank: 36
May 2004 Rank: 36

Aug. 2004 Rank: 45
Site: CheatCodes.com
Market Share: 0.27%
July 2004 Rank: 36
June 2004 Rank: 41
May 2004 Rank: 49

Aug. 2004 Rank: 61
Site: Game Revolution (www.game-revolution.com
Market Share: 0.22%
July 2004 Rank: 47
June 2004 Rank: 46
May 2004 Rank: 56

Source: HitWise

[Copyright 2004 PBI Media, LLC. All rights reserved.]

COPYRIGHT 2004 PBI Media, LLC
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group





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