I browsed though the new issue of Edge yesterday. I don’t really like the re-design – it seems too cluttered and hinders one’s ability to concentrate on the content. Is it just me or has the font size increased? What about the paper margin size? The pages just seem to have too much wasted space.
If I didn’t know know any better, I’d say that Edge is trying to make me pay for substantially more pages, whilst offering considerably less content in the process.
Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it isn’t.
Initially I thought that the magazine was trying to revert back to its original paper dimensions, but then I realised that Edge was trying to appease those who saw videogames as a lifestyle accessory – in other words, it’s trying to orientate itself as a lifestyle magazine. I don’t need a Wii-style magazine. Sorry, but there’s a reason why OPM etc exists. I always thought that Edge (along with Games TM) was the journalistic bastion of hardcore gaming. So what is all this talk of “market research” in the Editorial pages? Granted, I just skimmed through the magazine, but to me, that just screams of “design by committee”.
An Edge forum user by the name of hn6 believes that “The quality of the product is what differentiates Edge from the rest”. Is he referring to the paper stock and pagination size, or is he referring to the editorial content?
In any case, whilst hn6′s statement may have been true five years ago, the advent of smartphones and the burgeoning effects of the internet has really helped to curtail Edge’s influence, and stopped it from being considered as the industry bible that it once was. The world is a-changing they say, and together with other forms of market competition (Games TM et al) proving to be viable alternatives, just how relevant does Edge consider itself to be today?
In todays knowledge-based economy, the average reader has more information than what they know what to do with. In other words, we have reached an age of information saturation. And with time being the greatest resource at one’s disposal, will adding more pages really add to the magazine’s allure? Or will this strategy end up alienating just as many time-poor readers, who find it difficult to struggle through one 132-odd page issue, without having to worry about ingesting a further 100-odd pages each and every month. In short, will regular readers still buy Edge on a monthly basis, or will they now resort to buying the magazine on a more infrequent basis so as to have the neccessary time to read the previous issue?
Edge has marked its new issue with a cover price increase of 50p, making the magazine £5. Surely this price point hits a psychological barrier, and prevents the magazine from being considered as an impulse purchase. Will regular readers continue to support Edge, and come back every month? This is a question that the editorial staff need to ask themselves.
Back when Edge launched in the early nineties, it was a veritable breath of fresh air and enjoyed a mainstay welcome in an age when there really wasn’t any competition. There really wasn’t anything like Edge, and the market was screaming out for a magazine that was different and that treated videogames as a mature pastime. Edge came alone and filled that void beautifully. As time progressed, and much like the medium Edge sought to cover, the magazine really started to find its feet and carve out a successful niche for itself. Truth be told, it was my favourite magazine for years, and I certainly didn’t object to paying £3 for a 100 page magazine each and every month – knowing that each issue would be unable to satiate my appetite, and leave me wanting more.
So why do I object to this new Edge redesign (version 4.0)? The rate at which the price has increased is certainly lower than the rate of inflation. Well, it’s for the same reason I hate anything that becomes too established and popular. It stops being small and beautiful, and starts becoming more risk averse so as to become this huge monolithic enterprise. Would Edge’s present editorial team really have taken the same degree of risks as they once did 18 years ago? I highly doubt it. And with that, the stench of commercial pressures begins to seep through, and the old spirit of Edge begins to wane. To a certain extent nowadays, Edge just seems like any other magazine. A magazine that seems far more concerned with protecting its own brand image to achieve short term goals – no matter how detrimental this may be towards its longterm vision and editorial integrity.
But one should certainly not begrudge Edge for offering over 200 pages at £5 an issue. Compared to previous price-points, the new price certainly screams value, and together with the magazine’s commitment for covering “The Future of Interactive Entertainment”, this does bode well for future issues – assuming you have nothing else to read in the intervening month.
But that’s the problem as well. Nowadays you can buy a pretty decent game for £5. Edge now finds itself in a vastly different marketplace to the one it launched in over 18 years ago. Not only does the magazine have to compete with other forms of media communication, but it also finds itself in the precarious situation of having to defend its marketshare from the very form of interactive entertainment it seeks to cover.
If Edge is to continue to remain relevant for the discerning gamer (or to me at least), it needs to focus on a few key factors. As another Edge forum user by the name of Mod74 recently mentioned, “I detest the columnists 70% of the features and all of the developer crap”. I think he hit the nail on the head. Games TM is renowned for offering excellent features, and has won awards in the past for this very reason. And with the likes of Eurogamer offering reviews for all the latest releases as they happen, Edge’s reviews start to appear increasingly redundant.
Edge has certainly tried to counter most of these points: according to its website, the magazine now offers “more opinions from (with one possible exception) respected voices in the world of gaming. More insight. And Create, a new section dedicated to the stories behind the pixels which should be as interesting to dedicated videogame followers as it is to those who make the things we play”. Many of the “reviews in the magazine now feature extra material, including reviews with the developers and detailed looks at specific features”.
But the issue of the column writers needs to be addressed if Mod74 is to be appeased. Many (if not all) of the original cast return, whilst new ones have been added. Edge claims that it only considers someone for a column writing position if they have something valuable to say. My question is: who decides? Does Edge decide? And what about me? What do I decide, and where do I fit into all of this? I don’t want to read about the same racial issues plaguing Resident Evil 5 every month. And although I don’t have anything against N’Gai Croal, I much rather prefer the likes of Rob Fahey.
I guess money talks, and I haven’t bought Edge for nearly three years. I much rather prefer Games TM as the superior choice.
Maybe Edge’s columnists (such as N’Gai Croal) don’t appeal to me, but I must be representing the minority for what is ultimately a commercially driven, mainstream publication. These column writers must be doing something right if their opinions appeal to such a large demographic, and they have been able to secure the prestigious column writing slot on what is still a largely respectable magazine.
But then I liken Edge’s editorial team to the judges on X-Factor. Are the column writers really so deserving so as to represent the views of gamers everywhere? Or are the column writing positions rigged so as to allow only a small minority of individuals to get through. The likes of Simon Cowell is certainly no stranger to controversy, and even he had to defend the judging panel’s integrity on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ when an anonymous blogger claimed that Ronan Parke had been groomed for success. Far from the notion of meritocracy playing its part, there does appear to be a certain whiff of cronyism seeping through.
Despite its incredible success, the videogames industry is still an incredibly small tight-knit community, where everyone knows everyone else. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to suggest that much like the Hollywood acting system, popularity plays an incredibly huge part in securing the best jobs (regardless of talent). In this case then, the only hope one has is to hope that lady-luck smiles through, and that the fickle finger of fame stays pointed at the industry star for as long as possible. Fate surely has its part to play, as well as God’s influence in affecting one’s life trajectory.
But life is also about place and balance. In today’s congested marketplace, everything has a sell-by date. Edge has done well to maintain its authoritative presence within the games industry. However, with so many pretenders to the throne, whether the magazine is able to maintain this after the redesign is anyone’s guess. But with the editorial team of Edge having committed themselves to a renewed vision and sense of purpose, whatever plans they do decide to unfold in the coming months will hopefully bode well for the magazine, and for the videogames industry as a whole.
Maybe I should have a little bit more faith. For as the Edge of yore often used to say: The future is almost here. But then again, and in a world with so many viable alternatives (in terms of money and time), I’m not particularly sure if it’s a future where Edge can authoritavely argue that the magazine and brand is as relevant anymore.