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OPINION: Is there a Future for the specialist videogame press?

Only a few short years ago, today's acquisition of Computec's UK videogame magazine portfolio by Future Publishing would have raised a lot of eyebrows in the industry. Even now, this is an important piece of news - Future now effectively controls a large majority of the UK specialist gaming magazine market, and has little competition on the newsagent shelves.

However, the fact is that people don't seem to be terribly worried by the fact that one company has such a dominant grip on the specialist press, a fact which is a testament to the decline of specialist games magazines as the key flagbearers for the industry and its products.

Specialist magazines have witnessed a serious slide in circulation over the past few years, as consumers turn increasingly to different sources for their gaming information. Mainstream publications such as newspapers, mens magazines and even TV and radio have boosted their coverage of gaming slowly but surely, reducing the need for many casual consumers to pick up an expensive specialist magazine, while more hardcore consumers generally turn to the Internet for their information now.

This trend is set to continue; just as the advent of broadband has damaged the circulation of PC game magazines, since consumers no longer need coverdiscs for their demos and patches, the same is likely to be true for console magazines when the next generation of hardware goes online and demos become available over the network.

Consumers certainly have a love affair with print magazines, however, and some publications have built an enviable fanbase for themselves - with Future's EDGE and Paragon's GamesTM being excellent examples of this kind of publication. However, many magazines don't have this kind of following, and their ABC figures are being eroded as websites increasingly prove that they can provide not only timely news, but well written reviews and features, more efficiently and cost-effectively than print publications can - and the readers vote with their feet.

Future has successfully taken over one of its biggest competitors and ensured itself the lion's share of the UK videogame magazine market. It remains to be seen whether the company can reverse the decline in that market as a whole.

This editorial originally appeared in the Weekly Update, a free email news bulletin which is distributed to subscribers every Wednesday afternoon and features a round-up of the key headlines from the previous week, software charts, recruitment information and editorial opinion on key issues of the week.

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.