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PC Zone

Issue 193, May 2008
Editor Ali Wood
Categories Video game magazines
Frequency 13 per year
Circulation 11,357 (Jan 09 - Dec 09)[1]
19,023 (Jan 08 - Dec 08)[2]
22,297 (Jan 07 - Dec 07)[1]
First issue April 1993
Company Future Publishing
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Website Official site
ISSN 0967-8220

PC Zone was the first magazine dedicated to games for IBM-compatible personal computers to be published in the United Kingdom. Earlier PC magazines such as PC Leisure, PC Format and PC Plus had covered games but only as part of a wider remit. PC Zone was founded in 1993.

The magazine was published by Dennis Publishing Ltd. until 2004, when it was acquired by Future Publishing along with Computer And Video Games for £2.5m.[citation needed]

The precursor to PC Zone is the award-winning multiformat title Zero.

Contents

First issue

PC Zone was first published in April 1993 and cost £1.95. Billed as the first UK magazine dedicated exclusively to PC games, it was sold with two accompanying floppy disks carrying game demonstrations. The first editor was Paul Lakin.

The magazine was split into four sections: Reviews, Blueprints, Features and Regulars. Among the first titles to be reviewed were Dune 2, Lemmings 2 and Stunt Island. The Blueprints section involved previews of new games and Features consisted of an article written about a specific area of gaming interest, such as gaming audio.

Regulars included a news bulletin, competitions and a Buyer's Guide which featured recommended games.

Evolution

In its original incarnation, PC Zone recognised that its audience consisted largely of males in their late twenties and older, and adopted a tone suited to that audience. This was in contrast to contemporary multiformat and console magazines aimed at children and teenagers. During this period, the PC was not yet widely recognised as a games platform in the UK, an attitude PC Zone arguably helped to change by championing a succession of notable games such as Star Control II, Star Wars: X-Wing, Ultima Underworld and Doom.

By 1995, under the editorship of John Davison, the magazine had adopted a tone which heavily referenced the lad culture that had been made fashionable by magazines such as FHM and Dennis Publishing stablemate Maxim. This period was marked by several moderately controversial episodes, including the accidental inclusion of a pornographic Doom modification on a covermounted CD-ROM, an article about the infamously bug-ridden Frontier 2: First Encounters illustrated with a large photograph of a piece of excrement wrapped with a bow, a joystick group test which featured a model dressed as a nun (testing each joystick for "phallusicity"), and a one-page comic by regular contributor Charlie Brooker, graphically depicting animal cruelty (originally intended as a comment on the violence against animals frequently portrayed in the Tomb Raider games) which resulted in the offending issue being withdrawn from W H Smith newsagents.

Towards the end of the decade, during the editorship of Chris Anderson, the magazine underwent another redesign and a stricter scoring methodology was introduced. For a twelve month period it was rare for a game to score above 90%, although this was later relaxed, resulting in controversial 94% and higher scores for Black & White, Unreal II and others. It was around this time that the magazine retired the long-running Mr Cursor column, a series of humorous, quasi-autobiographical anecdotes written by a thinly-disguised Duncan MacDonald, originally intended to be a counterpoint to the jargon-heavy nature of much of the rest of the editorial.

Anderson was succeeded by Dave Woods. Most of the regular recurring features used in the current version of the magazine were introduced during this period, and Woods' final contribution was the redesign which marked the handover of the title to Future Publishing and the editorship to Jamie Sefton.

DVD Zone

Each issue of PC zone comes complete with a DVD-ROM containing game demos, videos, mods, drivers, freeware software and patches among other things. The DVD Zone sleeve occasionally has unique codes which may give readers access to game betas, trials, and in-game content, among other things. The most recent giveaway is a full set of in-game Clothes for The Nationals fraction in Battlefield Heroes named as Thor's Turbojet which is available over 4 months.

Current format

The current format of PC Zone was introduced in October 2005 for issue #159. The magazine now costs £5.99 and includes several regular features including Supertest, where reviewers discuss which game is best in its genre (now audio only); Steve Hill's NeverQuest, which follows the often unsuccessful attempts of Hill's venture into MMORPGs; Developer's Commentary, in which developers look back on their recently released titles; Retro Zone, with a focus on a different retro platform emulated on PC each month; How To..., a guide with 8 tips for a recently released game and a Buyer's Guide, in which top games are listed, divided into 9 genres. The Buyer's Guide developed from an indexed list of every game reviewed in the publication, along with closing comments. When the longevity of the magazine made this completely impractical it was pared down to just the best from each genre, becoming shorter with each redesign.

At present (issue #207) the leaders in each genre are:

The oldest game in the Buyer's Guide is Deus Ex, reviewed issue #93 and given 94%.

Review system

PC Zone prides itself on its reviews scoring system, which is based on the idea that 50% is an average grade. As a result, many publishers accuse the magazine of being too harsh. Games that score 75-89% are given a Recommended Award; games that score 90% or more are given a Classic Award. Very few games, perhaps only ten a year, receive the latter distinction. Games scoring under 20% are given the PC Zone Dump award (Previously the PC Zone Pants).

As a combined result of its honest scoring system and its age, PC Zone manages to acquire many UK and world print exclusives in terms of news, previews and reviews. PC Zone contained world exclusive previews for Half-Life 2, Doom 3, and Deus Ex 3, the first of which achieved an almost-unprecedented record score of 97%, a ranking it shares with three other games: Quake II, Alone in the Dark 2 and the relatively unknown flight simulator EF2000. Only one game has ever received the lowest score of 0%, which was the multimedia package Newsweek 3 Globocop, given the biting summary, "The most expensive beer mat in the world." The reviewer of this package also commented that everyone involved with the project should be "boiled alive like lobsters".

The lowest scoring game ever in the Budget section was Simon the Sorcerer 3D, which garnered the impressive score of 3%, "one point for each of its worthless dimensions."

Staff

The current editor is Ali Wood, who was inaugurated at the end of November 2008. She replaced Will Porter, who replaced Jamie Sefton in time for issue #191 (March 2008), who in turn was the replacement for Dave Woods after the magazine's redesign at the end of 2005. Sefton has remained with the magazine as an occasional freelance writer. Deputy Editor Steve Hogarty manages the magazine's news and previews section, while Ali Wood is in charge of the reviews section. David Brown (who replaced Ed Zitron) organises the Freeplay section of the publication, which features mods and freeware.

Philip Wand heads the hardware section and Dear Wandy, a monthly section featuring technical questions from readers (which started out as Dear Wazza under Warren Chrismas). There are discussion forums on the official PC Zone website, as well as on Philip Wand's own Dear Wandy site. There, members can request technical assistance and discuss gaming in general.

Dan Marshall contributed a regular column titled How to Make a Game which detailed the development of his first game, Gibbage. Gibbage then received the "Indiezone Game of the Month" award with 71% when it was reviewed. Marshall now writes freelance reviews for the magazine.

Other regular freelance writers include Steve Hill, Martin Korda, Rhianna Pratchett, Richie Shoemaker, Paul Presley and Pavel Barter.

References

  1. ^ "Standard Certificate of Circulation - PC Zone" (PDF). ABC. 2010-02-11. Archived from the original on 2010-02-16. http://www.webcitation.org/5nb0Aq4lD. Retrieved 2010-02-16. 
  2. ^ "Standard Certificate of Circulation - PC Zone" (PDF). ABC. 2009-02-12. Archived from the original on 2009-08-16. http://www.webcitation.org/5j4WAUYtU. Retrieved 2009-03-18. 

External links

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