Nintendo Power magazine is ceasing publication after 24 years, Ars Technica is reporting. "Nintendo what now?" you may be asking. "Magahuh?" you may say as you read this on your iPad.
In the pre-Internet days, video game news came from magazines, and Nintendo Power was the king of them all. It started as the Nintendo Fun Club, a short publication that probably doesn't even qualify as a magazine, before bursting out as a full-fledged magazine with a Super Mario Bros. 2 cover story. (You can read the entire first issue here.)
As a lifelong gamer, it was the first magazine I ever forced my mom to subscribe to when I was a small tyke (emphasis on that; I'm not that old), so it makes me a little sad to hear. I subscribed for years personally, until Nintendo systems became more of a niche and first the PlayStation 2 and later the Xbox 360 achieved market dominance.
It first came out at a time when Nintendo was really a thing, with early issues focusing on the second generation of NES games like Super Mario Bros. 2, Zelda II, Mega Man 2 and more. The magazine featured game guides, maps, comic strips, letter columns, fan art, codes (the old-school gaming holy grail) and more. It had covers that brought the characters to life through drawings, models and live photo shoots.
The magazine helped readers feel like part of a community before the Internet made that so much easier. That community feeling is being expressed online, with numerous fans taking to Twitter to lament the magazine running out of extra lives.
I'm on the same page as MTV Multiplayer writer Charles Webb as far as that magazine being a big part of what made me a lifelong video game fan.
I think my friend Justin Morissette summed it up best of all, though: "Getting a new issue in the mail was like a mini-monthly Christmas."
A personal favorite feature of mine was the comic strip adventures of Howard and Nester, the Fun Club president and the magazine's mascot, respectively. You can check out an online archive here.
Nintendo had already outsourced the publication of the magazine in 2007, which took a little more independent view rather than the boosterism of a company publication. Ars Technica's source says that Nintendo was always "difficult to work with," though, and wouldn't be reassuming publication of the magazine or renewing their contract.
Why wouldn't someone want to enter the publishing industry in 2012? Ohhh... right. Fellow old-timer gaming magazine GamePro just ceased publication last year after 23 years. Still, things aren't all bleak for video game magazines; Game Informer was the third most popular magazine in the country last year, reaching 6 million subscribers — though no other gaming magazine made the top 25.
Nintendo Power just published their 281st issue; it's unclear how many more issues remain, according to Ars Technica. The magazine still has 475,000 readers, according to their publisher.
Their senior editor promised on Twitter to "ry to make the last issues memorable," according to Ars Technica, while writer Phil Theobald said they had "something pretty sweet planned for the final issue," though their tweets acknowledging the end of the magazine were later deleted. I will be scouring grocery store newsstands to find this issue, I promise.
Don't cry for Nintendo though — the next edition of their Wii platform, the Wii U, is rumored to be available for preorder next month, and they continue to enjoy the position of having the casual gamer market covered with both the Wii and the Nintendo DS (though the 3DS has faced disappointing sales).
I'm going to console myself by listening to my current video game connection of choice, comedy/video game podcast/Web video series the Indoor Kids, from Los Angeles comedians Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon.
Current Nintendo Power publisher Future Publishing is still behind the official PlayStation and Xbox magazines, though given the magazine market, who knows how much longer that will last. Still, their venerable brother is about to jump onto that end-of-level flagpole for the last time.