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GameNOW (occasionally abbreviated to GN) was a United States-based video game magazine that was published by Ziff-Davis from November 2001 to January 2004. There are 27 issues of GameNOW in total. In addition to video game consoles like PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, and Game Boy Advance, GameNOW also covered games for personal computers. Unrelated to the magazine and Ziff-Davis is a similarly named video game online and retail store located in Mississauga, Ontario.
GameNOW's roots began in July 1994 when the popular magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly launched a spin-off magazine called EGM2. EGM² was essentially "another EGM," only without a reviews section and a greater emphasis on import games. The magazine lasted 49 issues with the last issue coming out in July 1998.
Starting in August 1998, EGM² became Expert Gamer (often abbreviated to XG), and the magazine's focus shifted away from news and previews to strategy and tricks. Despite the different name, XG continued EGM²'s numbering system. XG lasted for 39 issues until October 2001 (with the last issue being XG #88).
The next month (November 2001), XG was relaunched in its final form; GameNOW. Although GameNOW maintained a healthy tricks section and occasional strategy guides, the magazine's focus shifted to in-depth previews and reviews. Skewed to a slightly younger audience than that of EGM (roughly 12- to 14-year-olds), GameNOW concentrated less on industry insider-type features and more on the actual video games, including numerous large screenshots and elaborate feature articles.
In November 2002 (issue #13), the GameNOW staff was almost completely replaced when Ziff-Davis moved its video game magazines from the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook, Illinois to San Francisco, California. Of the original staff, only two writers made the move to California. Shortly after the move, the magazine underwent a massive redesign.
The magazine's original editorial staff consisted of the following crew:
- Editor-in-Chief - Dan Leahy
- Managing Editor - Justyn Harkin
- Associate Editors - Phil Theobald, Ethan Einhorn
- Senior Art Director - Carey Wise
- Associate Art Directors - Dave Malec, Mark Manzo (Mark would eventually become an Associate Editor)
Once the magazine was relocated to San Francisco, the staff consisted of:
- Editor-in-Chief - Tom Byron
- Managing Editor - Carrie Shepherd
- Associate Editors - Phil Theobald, Ethan Einhorn, Miguel Lopez, Sushi-X
- Senior Art Director - Andrew Burwell
- Associate Art Director - Nicole Tanner
The return of Sushi-X
GameNOW #16 (February 2003) featured the return of the EGM review ninja, Sushi-X. An expert on fighting games, an actual photo of Sushi never appeared in the magazine. Instead, he was always shown as a pixelized, 16-bit era sprite. Even in this form, he still featured his trademark red keikogi, katana, and sai.
Sushi's reviews differed from the other editor's reviews in that they were written with more flowery prose and were peppered with references to his ninja training and his quest for enlightenment.
Like most magazines, GameNOW features many recurring sections. These included:
- Rants & Raves - GameNOW's letters section was popular among its readers for its humorous and sarcastic tone. GameNOW wasn't afraid to poke fun at its readers, and many readers would write in hoping to be "zinged" in the pages of the magazine. Rants & Raves was home to several inside jokes among GameNOW's readership, including the frequent use of a particular screenshot from the PlayStation game Final Fantasy VIII.
- GameNOW Gallery - A two-page spread that focused on showing large screenshots and character artwork from upcoming games. This section is notable for featuring a spread highlighting Rare's original character designs for Joanna Dark in Perfect Dark Zero (issue #15, January 2003) and a spread showing several screenshots from the unreleased GBA game Shantae Advance (issue #25, November 2003).
- Hot 10 - A previews section that counted down the top ten best games coming out each month.
- Now Playing - GameNOW's review section. The magazine's review scale was much like a school's report card, with grades ranging from A+ to F. As you might expect, a C grade denoted that the game was average.
- The A+ Club - A section that called special attention to all the games that received GameNOW's highest review score, an A+.
- The F Troupe - The polar opposite of The A+ Club. This section called out every game that received GameNOW's lowest score, an F. The F Troupe's mascot was Poo, an anthropomorphic piece of cartoon poop that the GameNOW editors created in the PlayStation 2 game Magic Pengel.
- Tricks Now - A multi-page section near the back of the magazine that contained cheat codes for the latest games.
- Animal Crossing Bulletin Board - A small feature than ran within the Tricks Now section from issue #14 (December 2002) to issue #25 (November 2003). It featured strategies for the Nintendo GameCube game Animal Crossing and original patterns that you could recreate with the game's pattern designer. Among the custom patterns were the GameNOW logo and a recreation of GameNOW's legendary Final Fantasy VIII screenshot.
When GameNOW began, Fan Club was the name of the letters section that ran in the back of the magazine. Starting with issue #4 (February 2002), the Fan Club section was expanded to include regular (and often humorous) mini-features in addition to the reader mail.
In issue #14 (December 2002), the letters section was moved to the front of the magazine and renamed Rants & Raves. The mini-features were retained in the now expanded Fan Club section in the back of the magazine.
Among the regular mini-features were:
- Top Ten - Although these top ten lists were often played straight by counting down the top ten games in a specific series or genre, there were occasional lists that were made for laughs.
- Crap from the Past - Poked fun at terrible older video games.
- Hot or Not - A lighthearted look at what the editors were into that month.
- Gamerdex - Inspired by the Pokédex from Nintendo's Pokémon series, this section highlighted a different type of gamer, including an illustration of the gamer.
- Gaming Evolution - Took a video game character or series and traced its evolution from its humble beginnings to its current success. The section also made note of the subject's most embarrassing moments.
- Fan Letter Art - Envelope art sent in by the GameNOW readers.
- $10 Treasures - Discussed discount games available for the PlayStation.
- Giuseppe Contelli's What If? - A spotlight for long-time EGM², Expert Gamer, and GameNOW reader Giuseppe Contelli's nonsensical "What If" scenarios. A prime example: What if Bullet Bill did attract Joanna Dark and she reads the inscription, "I am in love with yours" on him?
- Cool Job - A short interview with video game industry insiders where they explained what their job involved and how they got it. A notable interview subject was Charles Martinet, Nintendo's voice of Mario.
- Super Lucky Love Love Japan - A section that highlighted import games, anime-based games, and anime. This section is an evolved version of the old feature, Super Lucky Imports.
- Game Critter Super-Squad! - A comic strip by cartoonist Jeremy "Norm" Scott, the creator of Hsu and Chan (of which GCSS was a spin-off).
List of issues
The following is a list of all the GameNOW issues including what was on the cover:
- Issue #1, November 2001 - Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #2, December 2001 - Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #3, January 2002 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color)
- Issue #4, February 2002 - Super Smash Bros. Melee (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #5, March 2002 - Pac-Man World 2 (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #6, April 2002 - Tekken 4 (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #7, May 2002 - Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku/Dragon Ball Z: Collectible Card Game (Game Boy Advance)
- Issue #8, June 2002 - NFL 2K3 (PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #9, July 2002 - WWE WrestleMania X8 (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #10, August 2002 - Fall's Big Games Issue 2002
- Issue #11, September 2002 - Super Mario Sunshine (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #12, October 2002 - Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #13, November 2002 - Star Fox Adventures (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #14, December 2002 - 007: Nightfire (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #15, January 2003 - The Two Towers (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #16, February 2003 - Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #17, March 2003 - Yu-Gi-Oh! The Duelists of the Roses (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #18, April 2003 - The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #19, May 2003 - Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness (PlayStation 2)
- Issue #20, June 2003 - Mega Man 15th Anniversary Special
- Note: This issue shipped with two different covers — one features Mega Man's original design and one featuring the Mega Man Battle Network version of the character
- Issue #21, July 2003 - Hulk (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #22, August 2003 - 50 Hot Games of Fall 2003
- Issue #23, September 2003 - Soul Calibur II (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #24, October 2003 - Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike (Nintendo GameCube)
- Issue #25, November 2003 - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube)
- Note: This issue shipped with four different covers — one for each of the four Ninja Turtles
- Issue #26, December 2003 - Final Fantasy Blowout
- Issue #27, January 2004 - Yu Yu Hakusho: Spirit Detective (Game Boy Advance)
It's a tradition among Ziff-Davis' video game magazines (particularly Electronic Gaming Monthly), to plant an April Fools joke in the April issue. During its brief history, GameNOW only had one April Fool's joke.
In issue #6 (April 2002), on page 42, there was a one-page preview for an Xbox game called Metal Gear Solid X. Before Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance was announced for either PlayStation 2 or Xbox, GameNOW ran this preview for the fake game. MGSX was said to be an Xbox port of the PlayStation 2 game, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. The biggest selling point of this game was that if you played through the game once, you unlocked a bonus mode that let you play through the game again as the series' main hero, Solid Snake, instead of MGS2's hero, Raiden.
Additionally, extra features in the Solid Snake mode included the return of Nastasha Romanenko (from the original Metal Gear Solid), a boss fight against Revolver Ocelot, the chance to assist Raiden in battles from the first play-through (this time from Snake's point of view), and access to previously locked areas of Big Shell.
The preview featured seven very convincing (yet phony) screenshots of the new features. It is interesting to note that the two screenshots that show Snake wandering through a red office building were actually photographs of the GameNOW offices that had their colors altered and the Metal Gear characters inserted into them. Also, in the first-person screenshot that shows Snake in a helicopter shooting down at a Harrier jet, the hand that you see holding the gun belongs to Mike Vallas, the man who created the fake screens.
- The back cover of GameNOW #1 features one of the few appearances of a specific ad for Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader for Nintendo GameCube. The ad features a glass cube containing a crashed TIE interceptor inside it. The glass on one side of the cube is cracked and purple smoke is pouring out of the crashed (and flaming) ship. LucasArts, the company that created the game, had placed the ad shortly before the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In light of the attacks, the company felt that it was in the best taste to withdraw the ad. However, the first issue of GameNOW had already been printed by the time of the attacks and before LucasArts could withdraw the ad, making GameNOW #1 one of the few places to see this ad in print (it also appeared in a concurrent issue of Tips & Tricks magazine).
- Super Mario Sunshine was the cover story on GameNOW #1 despite the only content relating to the game in that issue being a small news article announcing the title (which wouldn't be released until roughly a year later). The reason for this is that when GameNOW was in the planning stages, a mock-up cover for issue #1 was created with a big picture of Mario as the primary piece of cover art (along with a blurb mentioning the Nintendo GameCube game Super Smash Bros. Melee). The Ziff-Davis execs liked the mock-up cover so much that they insisted that it become the actual cover for the first issue. A quick news story (and cover blurb) had to be written up to make the cover relevant to the rest of the issue.
- GameNOW's original layout and design was strikingly similar to the British Nintendo magazine N64 Magazine (which was eventually renamed NGC). Even the four multi-colored spots below GameNOW's logo were "heavily inspired" by N64 Magazine's logo. GameNOW's design moved away from the look of N64 Magazine after GameNOW's redesign in February 2003 (issue #16).
- If you line up issues #16-27 (the last year's worth of issues), you'll see a familiar sight on the spines — the recurring Final Fantasy VIII screenshot that had become an in-joke among GameNOW readers (originally started in Expert Gamer).
- The final issue of GameNOW was a special 3D issue. By using the ChromaDepth 3D glasses that came with the issue, certain images seemed to pop off of the page. Even the Game Critter Super-Squad! comic was colored in such a way to take advantage of the 3D effect.
- The back of GameNOW was the first media to mention the existence of WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne.