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Is there a place for MMO magazines?

Zach Yonzon

In the vein of the World of Warcraft magazine, Massively reports that NCSoft has announced a magazine for the MMORPG Aion. Unlike the quarterly World of Warcraft magazine, the Aion magazine will be digital-only and come out every four weeks, or roughly every month. The Aion magazine also features bonus in-game items for players who pre-order, such as armor dyes and consumables. The magazine announcement actually begs the question about whether there's much sense in publishing magazines for an MMO, a constantly evolving and growing game.

I subscribed to the World of Warcraft magazine mostly out of a love for the print medium, even though I'm well aware that the information published therein could be made obsolete by a single patch or hotfix. Working for, I understand the value of online content which can be updated very quickly and frequently. Best of all, most online magazines (as opposed to Aion's digital format) are free. That said, the World of Warcraft magazine looked gorgeous from the previews and from an artistic standpoint, I always believed there was value in a well-made and laid out publication.

I'll have a better idea of what to think when my magazine actually arrives. That's the other thing. Aion's digital-only magazine will presumably be available for download, giving instant gratification. Online magazines are just one web browser away. The World of Warcraft magazine, on the other hand, was due to come out in the 4th quarter last year but encountered a few bumps along the road and was pushed back ever so slightly. When we learned that it finally started shipping early this year, I was pretty stoked to get my hands on one. But it's now March and nothing has arrived in the mail, so that's a big minus for print subscriptions right there. Sure, I live in Asia, but I paid my $69.95 just like everybody else. I'd almost forgotten about it, actually, but Massively's post about Aion's mag reminded me and got me more than a little upset that I haven't gotten my copy two months after folks started getting theirs. Kwurky can only keep me amused for so long, after all.

Most of the team passed on the World of Warcraft magazine for practical reasons. There simply wasn't any way for it to keep its information up to date with the game, making it less valuable as a resource. The game changes so fast and so often that the entire team scrambles to get posts up every time something big happens in the game. It's hard to imagine a print magazine that comes out quarterly having the same relevance, especially when it talks about game strategy. Still, I subscribed because I just love looking at art. If there's anything the magazine has, it's chock-full of gorgeous art from some of the best fantasy artists in the industry.

Aion's digital magazine might make a little more sense in that it does away with any shipping times and possible complications. It also comes out every four weeks, which should be frequent enough for feature stories and the like. The Aion magazine spices things up by giving in-game items with the purchase, not unlike Blizzard's offering of plushies which come with in-game pets. In that regard, the Aion magazine doesn't seem like such a bad idea. But the World of Warcraft magazine? Unless you were at BlizzCon, where you got a free Kwurky plushie by pre-ordering, there's not much incentive to get a print magazine about the ever-changing World of Warcraft.

Unless, of course, you just like gorgeous art. I bought the Art of the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game coffee table book just to ogle, so maybe I'm predisposed to getting the magazine, anyway. The magazine also tries to add value by being "collectible" and featuring exclusive interviews with Blizzard developers. Does Aion's launch of their own magazine mean there's actually some sense in MMO magazines? It's difficult to compare print and digital, obviously, but the idea is the same. Could it indicate that the World of Warcraft magazine is on to something? Or are both ventures doomed to failure? We'll find out soon enough.

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