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Mary Stanish Competitive Analysis: Family Oriented Game Magazines Purpose Statement Whenever I enter a gaming store, I am often dodging children half my size with their parent standing at the cash register. I have seen both mothers and fathers purchasing games for their families. While the games are labeled by the ESRB rating, what else helps parents make informed purchases? Game Review magazines offer players a preview of what a game is about without playing the game. Most of these magazines are aimed at a hard-core male gamer demographic which often includes images or language that is not appropriate for younger audiences. It is my intention to design a magazine that would be appropriate for all ages and help inform parents about games their children may ask for. My target audience would be families with children ages 5 to 14. Sample For this analysis, I chose five game review magazines based on popularity and the target audience. Game Informer – This game magazine targets “hard-core” gamers in the age range of 15-30. The content suggests its target audience is mostly male. Game Informer boasts of being the most widely circulated magazine for games. GamePro – This magazine also targets a more “hard-core” gamer audience in the same age range as Game Informer. Its contents suggest a mostly male audience. Nintendo Power – This is an exclusive magazine for Nintendo products and fans. The magazine claims to be for all ages, but some content is questionable for younger ages. It does have more friendly content for various types of players. WomenGamers – This is an online magazine of games for women. It clearly targets an older female audience with an age range of 17-40. It has affiliation with other game sites for non-traditional game players. This particular magazine focuses on the role of women and sometimes children in gaming. GamerDad – This magazine is the closest to the intended product. It is an online-only game review magazine targeted at parents. The age range is older, but the content still has a more masculine slant to it. Along with game reviews, it also looks at how parents can use games with their children and reviews non-digital games and toys. Qualitative Analysis Qualities to explore In the following pages, I will be analyzing the sample based on the following qualities; Game Review Style, Content of the Ads, Relating with Readers, Other Article Topics, Special Features, and Availability. This analysis will give an overview of what each of the samples show for each category, starting with Game Review Style. Game Review Style Game Informer Reviews are done with a numerical scoring system ranging from 1 to 10. These scores are assigned to categories including: Overall, Concept, Graphics, Sound, Playability, and Entertainment. A sixth category for Replay Value lists the likelihood of playing again with a range of High to Low. A few games are given exclusive long reviews with many screen shots, captions and even second opinions. Other games share a page usually with only one screen shot. All reviews write insights using gamer lingo and masculine humor. The Publisher, System and ESRB ratings are at the beginning of each review. Screen shots often displayed violence, “machoism” or partial nudity of female characters. Game Pro Game Pro also uses a numerical scoring system ranging from 1 to 5. Games scoring over 4.50 are given “Editor’s Choice”. The Pros and Cons of the game are also included. Most featured games get a two page spread filled with screen shots with captions and a long written review. The language is filled with gamer lingo and masculine humor. Other game reviews get a one page spread with one or two screen shots. The Publisher, System and ESRB ratings are at the beginning of each review. Screenshots depicted violence, blood, and partial nudity of female characters. Nintendo Power Women Gamers GamerDad Reviews are rated with a numerical scoring system from 1 to 10. Games are only rated with an overall score. The platform, publisher, developer and ESRB rating are placed under the numerical score. Only one game gets the one page spread. All other reviews have two to three games per page. Reviews included screenshots without captions. The writing is friendlier and does not use strong gamer lingo. Screen shots sometimes showed violence or blood, but were more neutral. The scoring system ranges from 1 to 10. Games are scored based on the categories: Gameplay, Enjoyment, Graphics, Audio, and Multiplayer. The writing itself is also broken up into these categories. The pros and cons of the game are listed right above the scores. Reviews include how it is marketed to female audiences. All reviews are on one page. Some screen shots are included but without captions. Usually the language is user friendly and does not use strong gamer lingo. Screenshots sometime depicted inappropriate images of women in games to make a point. GamerDad uses a 5 star system to score games on an overall scale. Only the platform and ESRB ratings are included before the actual review. Every review is also stamped with a Graphic stating the appropriate ages for this game. Every review starts with the ESRB rating which states what questionable material the game incorporates such as violence, sex, and language. GamerDad explains where and what kind of this material appeared in the game before getting into the review. The review ends with a Kid Factor explaining the appropriateness for children. Screenshots are included without captions. There were some depicting violence and blood. Conclusion Using a numerical scoring system is industry standard. What the intended audience would care about is what goes into the written portion of the review. The use of the quick reference charts served well in browsing the game review section. The organization of game reviews varied from sample to sample. Popularity or Favoritism towards a particular title or game system seemed to be the factor. The writing style also seemed to be exclusive towards the intended audience. For example, Game Informer usually includes frat boy style humor to the reviews or screen shot captions that might be offensive to women or inappropriate for children. Almost all of the game review magazines have reviews written by male staff with the exception of WomenGamers and GamerDad. Recommendations Using the quick reference in the review would be a key element to include. Rating the game for its own merits using a numerical score would be ideal. The quick reference could also use the ESRB style rating on Violence, Mature Themes, and Language. Using an age appropriateness seal or icon should also go before the written review. The language of the written review should be friendly to non-gamers. Screenshots should be appropriate for younger ages. A portion of the review should be dedicated to the kid friendliness of the game would be important. Having a mix of male and female writers for reviews would add some perspective to the writing. Ad Content Game Informer GamePro Nintendo Power WomenGamers GamerDad A majority of the ads are for new games or game accessories. There were also ads for gum, antidrugs, the marines, computer software, cars, exercise machines, game schools, and computers. GamePro had ads mostly for games. Other ads included online game rental, cell phone services, army, movie titles, shaving products, game schools, subscription for the magazine, and hotdogs. Many ads are for specifically Nintendo games. Other ads include Nintendo DVD titles, websites, antidrug, t-shirts, game development summer camp, Ocarinas, game development schools, and ESRB. Ad banners seem to advertise mostly books about games or game schools. There were only a couple ads for retro game sites and products in the GamerDad online store. Conclusions Ads are always geared toward an intended audience. Based on what types of ads were included in the magazines, it seems that game ads are what audiences find most appealing. Many ads were also for specifically male products such as razors and exercise machines. Recommendations Since our intended audience is not limited to just men or gamers, it would be important to select sponsors with family oriented advertising. What games are chosen to be advertised should have appropriate imagery for our age range. Relating with Readers Game Informer There are two pages of reader letters and a page of artwork. Every issue has a quiz in the back with no real prizes. The online site for the magazine has a forum community. GamePro A section called “The Hub” is dedicated to user letters and results of online polls. The results are part of the online community forums. There is a small section called “Ask Game Girl” to get a female perspective on questions. Nintendo Power Nintendo power has a section called “Pulse” where reader letters are read and answered. The magazine allowed readers to vote for their favorite game for each of the Nintendo categories. There was also a sweepstakes. At the end there was a community section to show off mods and artwork. Usually every month there is a challenge of guessing a game based on a portion of a screen shot. Women Gamers There is a forum community for discussions of any article on the site. Sections to search for jobs and contribute to articles on the site. GamerDad GamerDad has a forum community. Conclusion The internet as a source of community input is clearly apparent. Nintendo power is the only Magazine that does not have an accompanying website and actively encouraged communication with readers. Recommendations Contact with subscribers is good for gathering data as to what a majority wants or their interests. Having contests and art displays might appeal more to younger audiences. Having an online community forum would be the easiest way to get in touch with parents and the older age bracket of children. However, having active reactions through emails or letters is important to people in the target audience who are uncomfortable with online communities. Article Topics Game Informer GamePro Nintendo Power WomenGamers GamerDad Other articles include game news about the industry, a feature article about games, interviews, game previews, release date calendar, and an opinion section. Previews, game gossip and news. Previews, interviews, Wii channels, retro game reviews, and Nintendo news. Editorials, Interviews, previews. Interviews, shopping guides, game news. Conclusion The most common articles seem to be game previews and industry news. Game previews are games that will soon be released but are not yet available. Recommendation Industry news might be an interest to some of our audience. Shopping guides and previews of what will be available should be considered as staple articles to include. Special Features Game Informer Every issue has exclusive previews of games. It has codes, passwords, and strategies. Archives of reviews are tucked into the magazine. GamePro Game codes, passwords and strategies and sneak previews. Nintendo Power Exclusive previews of Nintendo games. Archive of game reviews giving the overall score and which issue numbers the review can be found. Every issue has a tear out poster of one of the games. WomenGamers Dr. K. Wright writes articles about the role of gender and gender issues in the gaming GamerDad community. Critiques of Female Characters in games are another exclusive feature. All reviews are archived on the site. GamerDad has a section of columns reviewing board games, a child’s reviews, a mother’s reviews, and parenting tips. Also sections for Monday Night football. All reviews are archived on the site. Conclusion Each magazine offers its own “exclusive” content. Exclusive previews and hints are a standard of gamer oriented magazines. In the sample, these seem to be the only things in common. Magazines with a nontraditional gamer audience bring special features that appeal to that audience. Recommendation For a family oriented game magazines our special features must reflect what would be of most interest to the audience. Content that would appeal to both young and old will be the challenge. Hints and previews would appeal to young and old alike. Sections about Game Industry Issues, parenting with games, academic game research and Serious Games would be aimed at parents. More interactive tidbits such as quizzes or how games are made could be directed more to kids. A comic story in every issue might also be considered a route to explain game issues to a younger audience. Availability Game Informer GamePro Nintendo Power WomenGamers GamerDad There is both an online and print magazine version. A reduce cost subscription for a year is given if you sign up for a membership at ebGames stores. It is available both online and in print. It is available in magazine sections of stores. Nintendo Power is print only. Its website only has offers to sign up for a subscription. It is available in magazine sections of stores. This is an online magazine only. This is an online magazine only. Conclusion It is easier to find an archived review of a game online. Print copies may have lists in the back. Having an online magazine or an online version of the magazine is the most popular. Recommendation Having an online version and print version of the magazine would be ideal. Online magazines make it easier to find a review of a specific game or organize a list of top games. Having online features that affect the printed version validate having both as an option. Having a print version makes it more accessible and safer for a young audience. Overall Conclusion In all the samplings, their ideal audience drove what content to include and how things were written. Game reviews and previews were the common strand in all the magazines. The other common thread was that each magazine presumed that the audience bought games. Recommendations It would be ideal to do some user research to learn what is important to our audience. Assuming that parents are the primary shopper of games, game reviews and listings should be written in that slant. Reviews should also be written assuming that children are the primary consumers of the media. Casual Gamers and Non-traditional gamers should also be addressed with features that appeal to their interests. The audience is different than mainstream gamer magazines, but the content should be relevant to any game consumer. Quantitative Data This next portion of the analysis is dedicated to quantitative reviews about the sampling. I will analyze the number of ads in each issue, the number of game reviews, the number of game previews and how long the magazine has been in print. Ads Game Informer 65/173 GamePro 23/93 Nintendo Power 30/97 WomenGamers 7 per page * GamerDad 3 per page * * These magazines are websites only. Thus I ads appeared on a single webpage. 37% 24% 30% --only counted how many Knowing the number of ads may show how much each magazine depends on funding from sponsors over subscriptions. GamePro and Nintendo Power both had very strong community sections in their magazine. Game Informer however, offers plenty of “insider” content and more exclusive previews probably due to the large number of game ads it allows. Game Reviews Game Informer GamePro Nintendo Power WomenGamers GamerDad 38 18 12 14 available on front page 10 available on front page The exception to the rules, of course, is the online magazines. The fact is that they have archives of their reviews and don’t regularly come out with “issues”. Again, Game Informer has the most game reviewed in a single issue, by far. This, most likely, has to be due to the sponsorship they get from game companies and access to games. Game Previews Game Informer 15 GamePro 12 Nintendo Power 17 WomenGamers 0 available on the front page GamerDad 0 available on the front page For this analysis, I included the “featured” games because they were also previews. I was surprised that Nintendo Power actually had more previews than Game Informer who I assumed would have the most again. The two online magazines also had previews in their archives but none were directly available on the front page during the time of this analysis. Years in Print Game Informer GamePro Nintendo Power WomenGamers GamerDad 17 18 20 9 5 Quantitative Conclusions This data points out some numerical data that proves helpful in deciding how many reviews to put in each issue. It also shows some of the weaknesses of online magazines as they can update whenever instead of only once a month. It also appears based on this data that the magazines with more ads had more reviews and previews. The length of time the magazine has been around also contributes to its content. Method Discussion For this analysis, I found both the quantitative and qualitative comparisons enlightening for design decisions. There were still many things to speculate about and further marketing research would be necessary, I feel, for the success of the product. Qualitative perhaps may guide more of the design decisions about what to include and how to present it. Quantitative data suggests that having many ads and support from game companies allows access to more games to review and preview. Something I learned trying to find a good sampling is that there are surprisingly few resources for parents IN a game store to help them make informed decisions. This is one of the competitive edges for my intended product. Parents would have to go to the internet to find anything.