The Rise and
Fall of EMAP's Video Game Magazine
look back at the history of EMAP’s videogaming magazine
empire, which included the world’s first dedicated gaming
magazine, the industry’s best known gaming journalists and
some of the finest magazines to grace the world.
Midlands Allied Publishing) was formed in 1947 when four regional
newspaper groups in England merged. The company would publish its first
consumer magazine, Angling Times, in 1953. Many more successful
magazine launches would take place in the following decades.
It wasn’t until 1981 when EMAP decided to launch a dedicated
videogaming magzine. Editor Terry Pratt, along with a small group of
editorial staff, launched Computer
Games (aka C&VG)
in November 1981. The first issue of C&VG
contained a variety of gaming content from computers, arcade, type-ins,
puzzles and more. The most noticeable thing about the early issues of C&VG
is that the games coverage included illustrations instead of
screenshots — the technology to capture screenshots
hadn’t been implemented into magazines at the time.
In 1984, EMAP purchased Sinclair
User from ECC Publications
Ltd and published their first SU
issue with number 30, dated September 1984. Sinclair User
was very much aimed at the serious user of the Sinclair computers, with
articles on things such as programming, business software, type-ins and
educational software. However, by 1986, Sinclair User,
with Editor David Kelly, underwent a transformation and its focused
shifted towards gaming.
With the Sinclair computers covered with Sinclair User,
EMAP quickly purchased Commodore
User to cover the increasing
popular Commodore computers. As with Sinlcair
in those early days was pretty heavily focused on the business side of
the computing scene with content to match. With EMAP’s first
issue (October 1984, volume 2 issue 1) the magazine covered the
expanding range of Commodore computers: Vic-20, Commodore 64.
By the late 1980s, the 16-bit computers (Atari ST, Amiga and PC) were
beginning to increase in popularity and showed great potential. EMAP
One For 16-bit Games, a
multi-format magazine that would cover the games that these new
exciting 16-bit wonder computers were capable of producing. With Gary
Penn as Editor, issue one went out with cover date of September 1988.
The magazine was quickly hailed as a market leader, gaining the
prestigious InDin award for magazine of the year in 1990.
With its February 1989 issue, Commodore
changed name to CU Amiga – C64.
The change was to reflect the increasing coverage of the Amiga. ACE was
a multi-format magazine much like EMAP’s own C&VG,
so it came as quite a surprise when EMAP bought the title from Future
Publishing in 1989. EMAPs’ first issue, with original
co-editors Steve Cook and Pete Connor, was number 22, cover dated July
1989. While C&VG
was indeed a multi-format title, it was clearly aiming towards the
younger reader, with a more colourful design, larger screenshots and
less text throughout. ACE on
the other hand was very much focused more on the content rather than
the visuals and included more in-depth features, interviews and news on
the gaming industry.
The Spring of 1990 saw the launch of PC
Leisure, a magazine that
would balance its content with the gaming and serious side of the PC.
With new Editor, Steve James, Commodore
completed its next transition from CU
Amiga – C64
to just CU
Amiga, solely covering
Commodore’s 16-bit computer the Amiga. With gaming consoles
such as the Mega Drive and the forthcoming Super NES making news across
the UK, Julian Rignall successfully convinced EMAP to launch a new
magazine dedicated solely to these new machines. Mean
Machines issue 1 was
launched, cover dated October 1990, and would initially feature the
Mega Drive, NES, Master System and GX4000.
With issue 32, May 1991, The One For
split into The
One For Amiga Games and The
One For ST Games. The PC
coverage from The One
was merged with newly launched sister title PC
Review — itself the
successor to PC Leisure.
Sega’s Mega Drive was undeniably the most successful gaming
console in the UK at the time and to take advantage of this a magazine
dedicated to the 16-bit console was launched. MegaTech,
edited by Paul Glancey, launched with cover date XMAS 1991. MegaTech
was a huge step for EMAP, certainly in terms of production values.
Instead of the C&VG/Mean Machines
stapled pages, copy/paste design, MegaTech
was glue bound spined with a high quality production design.
April 1992 was the last issue (55) of ACE
EMAP decided to close the doors on its second multi-format title and
concentrate on dedicated 16-bit magazines... Atari
ST Review launched in May
1992 and would cover the 16-bit computer with focus on the serious
side, including articles, guides, columnists, etc. With The One For ST Games closing
down (its games coverage would move over to Atari ST Review),
For Amiga Games
shortened its title down to The One
with its May 1992 issue 44. Just a few short months later, the magazine
changed its title again, adding the suffix ‘Amiga’.
Also in May 1992, Sinclair User
incorporated rival Spectrum magazine Crash
from Europress Impact.
With the success of Mean Machines
and the increasing success of the two main gaming consoles (Mega Drive
and Super NES), it was decided to split the magazine into two separate
Machines Sega and Nintendo
Magazine System both launched
as separate titles in October 1992. With the newly launched Nintendo Magazine System
came official endorsement from Nintendo themselves — the
first of its kind in UK gaming.
With the ever declining ZX Spectrum computing market, Sinclair User
finally closing down with issue 134 in May 1993. During the summer of
was sold onto rival company Maverick Magazines. Another scoop for EMAP
occurred during the end of 1993. Sega had given EMAP official
endorsement with newly launched Sega
Magazine (cover dated January
1994). Just like Mean Machines Sega,
Editor Richard Leadbetter’s Sega
would cover the Master System, Mega Drive, Game Gear and, eventually,
the Sega Saturn. However, unlike Mean
the production values of Sega
were of a high quality to match such an official endorsement.
In 1995, EMAP sold The One Amiga
to Maverick Magzines, who would continue to publish the magazine until
March 1996. With Sega now concentrating on one console — the
Saturn — it was decided to re-launch Sega Magazine
Saturn Magazine. With Richard
Leadbetter stepping aside to oversee the production of a new
Sam Hickman took over as Editor for the re-launch with issue 1
published in November 1995. That new multi-format magazine was Maximum, which
was launched at the end of 1995. Edited by Richard Leadbetter, it was a
short lived (seven issues) high production publication that would cover
the 32-bit machines with huge in-depth articles and features of up to
closed its shop with issue 53, March 1997. Editor Gus Swan paid tribute
to all the magazine’s past contributors, before passing the
over to new crew on Mean
Machines PlayStation. Editor
Simon Clays helmed the new magazine and, following an issue zero in
July 1997, issue one launched in October 1997. However, the PlayStation
magazine field had some fierce competition elsewhere and, after six
issues, the title was merged with sister mag PlayStation
Plus. The following year, CU
ended its long run with its October 1998 farewell issue. The following
month also saw the farewell of Sega
with the 37th issue in November 1998.
In 2002, EMAP decided to sell C&VG
to rival company Dennis Publishing. What was once the flagship of their
videogaming magazine portfolio and best selling multi-format in the UK
was now a former shadow of itself. Unsuccessful changes to the
magazine’s editorial staff and magazine design led to
declining readers, which the company could not ignore any longer.
A further major loss occurred in 2006 when EMAP lost the official
endorsement from Nintendo for their Nintendo
Official Magazine (formerly Nintendo
and thus meant the disapearance of EMAP’s last videogaming
magazine. It may have seemed like an unfortunate run for EMAP, but it
was clear from the late nineties that the company was consciously
moving away from the videogaming market.
Looking at EMAP’s current catalogue of magazines,
it’s hard to believe that this multi-media giant was ever
involved in videogaming magazines never mind being the leading
innovator in the market. Even EMAP’s website history pages
fails to include any mention of their 21-year run of publishing titles
such as C&VG,
and that is a real shame as the company should be proud of the
contribution they made in revolutionizing the videogaming magazine
| • EMAP
• C&VG, Sinclair User, Your Commodore, ACE, The One,
CU Amiga, Mean Machines Sega and Nintendo Magazine
System scans courtesy of Mort at The Def Tribute to Zzap!64.
• Sega Magazine, ST Review and Nintendo Official Magazine
scans courtesy of Andynick at Magazines From the Past
• ‘Maximum Carnage’ – article on
Maximum written by Ashley Day and published in Retro Gamer issue 25.
• ‘The Mean Team’ – article on
Mean Machines written by Damien McFerran and published in Retro Gamer
• ‘The Spirit of the Mad Gamer’
– article on C&VG (Paul Davies era) written by Damien
McFerran and published in Retro Gamer 36. The article can
also be found in PDF format on the Mean Machines Archive website.
• ‘Rings of Saturn’ – article on
Sega Saturn Magazine written by Damien McFerran and published in Retro
Gamer issue 45. The article included many scans from our very
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