Computer Gaming World (CGW) was an American computer game magazine published between 1981 and 2006. One of the few magazines of the era to survive the video game crash of 1983, it was sold to Ziff Davis in 1993. It expanded greatly through the 1990s and became one of the largest dedicated video game magazines, reaching around 500 pages by 1997.
|First issue||November 1981|
|Based in||Cambridge, Massachusetts|
(Archived 2004-06-05 at the Wayback Machine)
In the early 2000s its circulation was about 300,000, only slightly behind the market leader PC Gamer. But, like most magazines of the era, the rapid move of its advertising revenue to internet properties led to a decline in revenue. In 2006, Ziff announced it would be refocused as Games for Windows, before moving it to solely online format, and then shutting down completely later the same year.
In 1979, Russell Sipe left the Southern Baptist Convention ministry. A fan of computer games, he realized in spring 1981 that no magazine was dedicated to computer games. Although Sipe had no publishing experience, he formed Golden Empire Publications in June and found investors. He chose the name Computer Gaming World (CGW) instead of alternatives such as Computer Games or Kilobaud Warrior because he hoped that the magazine would both review games and serve as a trade publication for the industry. The first issue appeared in November, about the same as rivals Electronic Games and Softline. (Sipe's religious background led to "Psalm 9:1–2" appearing in each issue. His successor as editor, Johnny L. Wilson, was an evangelical Christian minister.)
The first issues of Computer Gaming World were published from Anaheim, California, and sold for $2.75 individually or $11 for a year's subscription of six issues. These early bimonthly issues were typically 40–50 pages in length, written in a newsletter style, including submissions by game designers such as Joel Billings (SSI), Dan Bunten (Ozark Software), and Chris Crawford. Also, early covers were not always directly related to the magazine's contents, but rather featured work by artist Tim Finkas. In January/February 1986 CGW increased its publication cycle to nine times a year, and the editorial staff included popular writers such as Scorpia, Charles Ardai, and M. Evan Brooks.
CGW survived the video game crash of 1983, which badly hurt the market; by summer 1985 it was the only survivor of 18 color magazines covering computer games in 1983. In autumn 1987 CGW introduced a quarterly newsletter called Computer Game Forum (CGF), which was published during the off-months of CGW. The newsletter never became popular; only two issues were published before it was cancelled. Some of CGF's content became part of CGW, which became a monthly.
The magazine went through significant expansion starting in 1991, with page counts reaching 196 pages by its 100th issue, in November 1992. During that same year, Johnny Wilson (who started as a contributor in 1983), became editor-in-chief, although Sipe remained as publisher. In 1993, Sipe sold the magazine to Ziff Davis—by then the magazine was so thick that a reader reported that the December issue's bulk slowed a thief who had stolen a shopping bag containing it—but continued on as publisher until 1995. The magazine kept growing through the 1990s, with the December 1997 issue weighing in at 500 pages. In January 1999, Wilson left the magazine and George Jones became editor-in-chief, at a time when print magazines were struggling with the growing popularity of the Internet. Jones had been the editor-in-chief of CNET Gamecenter, and had before that been a staffer at CGW between 1994 and 1996. He was replaced by Jeff Green in 2002.
On August 2, 2006, Ziff Davis and Microsoft jointly announced that CGW would be replaced with Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. The new magazine replaced CGW as part of Microsoft's Games for Windows initiative. In their press release, Ziff Davis indicated that much of CGW's core content and the entire staff will be transferred to the new magazine. Because of these announcements, Ziff Davis' actions appeared more on the order of a rebranding of CGW, rather than an actual cancellation. The final CGW-labeled issue was November 2006, for a total of 268 published editions.
On April 8, 2008, 1UP Network announced the print edition of Games for Windows: The Official Magazine had ceased, and that all content would be moved online. At the GFW Radio Penny Arcade Expo reunion, Jeff Green claimed that the deal with Microsoft allowed CGW/GFW to continue operating, and that if it had not occurred, Ziff Davis would have shut down CGW.
Simultaneously with the release of the final CGW issue, Ziff Davis announced the availability of the CGW Archive, which features complete copies of the first 100 issues of CGW, as well as the two CGF issues, for a total of 7438 pages covering 11 years of gaming. The archive was created by Stephane Racle, of the Computer Gaming World Museum, and is available in PDF format. Every issue was processed through optical character recognition, which enabled the creation of a 3+ million word master index. Although Ziff Davis has taken its CGW Archive site offline, the magazines can be downloaded from the Computer Gaming World Museum.
CGW featured reviews, previews, news, features, letters, strategy, and columns dealing with computer games. While console games are occasionally touched on, these are primarily the territory of CGW's sister magazine. Electronic Gaming Monthly.
In 2006, two of the most popular features were "Greenspeak", a final-page column written by editor-in-chief Jeff Green, and "Tom vs. Bruce", a unique "duelling-diaries" piece in which writers Tom Chick and Bruce Geryk logged their gameplay experience as each tried to best the other at a given game. "Tom vs. Bruce" sometimes featured a guest appearance by Erik Wolpaw, formerly of Old Man Murray.
For many years, CGW never assigned scores to reviews, preferring to let readers rate their favorite games through a monthly poll. Scores were finally introduced in 1994, but beginning in April 2006, CGW stopped assigning quantifiable scores to its reviews. In May of the same year, CGW changed the name of its review section to "Viewpoint", and began evaluating games on a more diverse combination of factors than a its content. Elements considered include the communities' reaction to a game, developers' continued support through patches, and whether a game's online component continued to grow.
The reviews were formerly based on a simple five-star structure, with five stars marking a truly outstanding game, and one star signalling virtual worthlessness. Three games, Postal² by Robert Coffey, Mistmare by Jeff Green, and Dungeon Lords by Denice Cook "...form an unholy trinity of the only games in CGW history to receive zero-star reviews."
Bruce F. Webster reviewed the first issue of Computer Gaming World in The Space Gamer No. 48. Webster commented that "I strongly recommend this magazine to computer gamers, and just one reason alone will (in my opinion) suffice: You can now start getting from just one publication the information that you've been having to dig out of three or four or five (or six...). Get it."
Page 6 reviewed Computer Gaming World and stated: "Quite apart from being an interesting read, you will get more out of your existing games and will have a much better idea of what to buy as your next piece of software. No other computer magazine that I can think of will give you reviews of such depth."
The New York Times repeatedly praised CGW, placing it as one of the premier computer game publications of its time. In 1997 the newspaper called it "the leading computer game magazine", In 1999 "the bible of computer game purists", and in 2005 "one of the top computer game magazines".
Ziff Davis also published a sister magazine to Computer Gaming World, entitled PC Gaming World, in the United Kingdom. It was the region's third-largest computer game magazine by August 2000. In 1998, journalist Stuart Campbell described PC Gaming World as a publication with a predominantly American bent, thanks to its "sober, serious, text-heavy style". He considered it to be out of step with the British game audience. Campbell later called the magazine an "oddity" that was "clearly aimed primarily at a 40-something audience and beyond", in comparison to more youthful rivals such as PC Gamer UK and PC Zone.
In July 2000, Ziff Davis sold its publishing arm in Europe to Verenigde Nederlandse Uitgeverijen (VNU), including three magazines in Germany, three in France and four in the United Kingdom. PC Gaming World migrated with these publications. At the time, The Register reported that VNU saw PC Gaming World as a poor match for its business model, which left the magazine's future uncertain. The publisher sold PC Gaming World to Computec Media a month after the purchase, citing its lack of synergy with VNU's existing brand. This transition was set to be completed in October 2000.
According to Golem.de [de], Computec planned to fold PC Gaming World together with its own PC Gameplay magazine, which it launched in 2000. PC Gaming World had closed by the first half of 2001; Computec moved the publication's subscribers to PC Gameplay, which nevertheless struggled to grow its base. The company "relaunched" PC Gameplay as PC Gaming World in 2003, but did not release the new publication's subscriber count through the Audit Bureau of Circulations during the first half of that year. Writing for GamesIndustry.biz, Kristan Reed noted that this decision was "never a healthy sign". Computec sold its entire British game magazine branch to competitor Future Publishing in late 2003.
To ensure clear market leadership position, Ziff Davis will transfer Computer Gaming World's veteran editorial staff and mission to Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. The new magazine and web initiative will carry on the editorial, production and art staff of Computer Gaming World, incorporating CGW's best-of-class style and tone while broadening the outlet's reach, influence and editorial content to complement the coming renaissance in Windows gaming.