Imagine Publishing MD Damian Butt has told GamesIndustry.biz that the company is preparing for a huge push into the online space this year as gaming websites become increasingly important.
"Online for us is a massive focus and drive in '07. We're going from a very small base in online, almost nothing, and we're building up a pretty sizeable online portfolio," he said.
"This year we're absolutely as committed to online as to print, but we've almost got to work a lot harder with online because we've got so much to develop and build."
He went on to hint that Imagine has an advantage over other magazine publishers with regard to the online space, observing, "It's not as if we've spent 100 million developing an online presence that isn't very good and now we've got to redo it. We don't even have it yet to any great scale."
Butt dismissed suggestions that Imagine may have left it too late to enter the online market, with sites such as IGN, Gamespot and Eurogamer - which is published by the same company as GamesIndustry.biz - already firmly established.
"If you look at all the online stuff that's going on out there, yes, there are some interesting bits and bobs, but there's nothing truly where I look at it and think, 'Wow, if we were there right now and it was up and running, it would make a dramatic difference to the business,'" he said.
"This year is critical - if we'd left it another year, we'd be way behind technologically, but online's all to play for. There's no real dominant force."
Butt's comments followed yesterday's release of the the latest ABC figures. They revealed a drop in circulation for Play, Powerstation and 360, but sales of X360 were up by more than 20 per cent and Games TM remained steady.
He said that the figures for rival Future titles PSW and PSM3 were "slightly higher" than Imagine had forecast, but added, "Everything else was pretty much as expected."
Butt conceded that the rise of consumer gaming websites is contributing to the fall in magazine readership, stating, "Definitely, the Internet is having an effect. Probably not as pronounced as people might assume, but it's definitely having an effect.
"Overall, less people buy specialist magazines now - there's more media vying for people's attention, so there are more ways for them to get information than ever before."
He also observed that some magazines have lost their USPs due to the fact that the next-gen consoles give users the option to download game demos directly. "OPM used to be the only magazine that had playable demos on it, and it was the only way that people could get playable demos. Now of course, the power of that USP for an official title is waning because all the new consoles allow you to download demos straight to the machine.
"The world's changing quite a bit, and some of the USPs have also changed or disappeared entirely."
However, Imagine will still pursue a strategy of obtaining official licenses should they become available. "We will always put ourselves up for those positions. We happen to specialise in independent titles, but we may well move to official if the opportunity arises," Butt explained.
"Imagine has always been very good at unofficial titles, and we focus on that. Future focuses more on official titles and they see their unofficial titles as spoilers there to protect the flank of the officials.
"We are a lot better than them in terms of independent titles. They've got the officials because of their size, but as the market grows and increases in size, that situation may change."
According to Butt, Imagine was invited to pitch for the Official Nintendo license "before we'd actually put a magazine on the shelves" - but lost out to Future. However, he added, "I do firmly believe that if Imagine was the size and profile we are at the moment, perhaps the decision may have gone the other way."