|Categories||Video game magazines|
|First issue||October 1990|
Mean Machines was a market-leading multi-format gaming magazine released between 1990 and 1992 in the United Kingdom. Its style was popular with gamers of the time for its humor, editorial tone and style, and its sometimes outspoken reviews.
In the late 1980s Computer and Video Games (CVG) was largely covering the outgoing generation of 8-bit computers like the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and newly emerging 16-bit computers (the Atari ST and Commodore Amiga). However, the popularity of 8-bit computers was fading, the new generation of computers were expensive, and it quickly became apparent that CVG needed a new angle to help maintain its appeal to gamers. Julian Rignall built upon an idea first conceived by C+VG contributor Tony Takoushi and launched a consoles-oriented section of the magazine called Mean Machines. The inaugural section was featured in the October 1987 issue of the magazine and largely covered games on 8-bit games systems like the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega's Master System. More importantly, however, it included features on newly emerging Japanese-only videogame systems such as the NEC and PC Engine. These new machines piqued the interest of gamers across Britain.
Over the ensuing months, CVG increased its coverage of consoles and even started off an exclusive 'Mean Machines Megaclub'. At the same time, a new import gaming marketplace started to emerge fuelled by hardcore gamers' demand for these new consoles. Small retailers across Britain began importing consoles and games directly from Japan, modified them for the UK market and sold them at a premium.
Rignall and newly hired designer Gary Harrod spent two weeks figuring out the design and the editorial tone and style, and the results of their endeavours was Mean Machines Issue Zero - a 16-page test version of the magazine that was used to elicit feedback from potential advertisers and readers. Only ten of these magazines were created, although a mini version was reprinted and given away free with Issue 15 of the magazine.
The first issue covered the Sega Mega Drive, Sega Master System, Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy and Amstrad GX4000 consoles. However, within a few months the Amstrad was taken off the market due to poor sales, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System took its place amongst the main focus line-up, making MM, in review terms at least, a Sega and Nintendo only magazine. Although these consoles were the main focus of the magazine, space was also given to other, niche machines like the NeoGeo and PC Engine.
Following the lead of parent magazine CVG, Mean Machines covered both domestic and imported releases, meaning that the magazine could review titles that were months away from UK release. At the time, import gaming was much more popular than it is now (increased territory lockouts and swifter UK release dates have made import gaming a relatively niche pastime today), but it was still a brave choice to cater for import gamers by focusing on games that were still months away from being officially released in the United Kingdom.
Mean Machines Sega and Nintendo Magazine System
ISSN 0967-9014 and ISSN 0965-4240
As the UK video games market grew and matured, Sega and Nintendo emerged as the two dominant manufacturers. EMAP split the magazine in two, creating Mean Machines Sega and the officially-endorsed Nintendo Magazine System.
After a record-breaking launch, monthly sales of NMS settled down to a level just below the original Mean Machines at its peak, and the circulation of MMS began to decline, a situation not helped when, at the end of 1993, EMAP Images launched the officially-endorsed Sega Magazine, which cannibalized sales of its own independent Sega publication.
The magazine soldiered on until the 32-bit era, when it eventually was incorporated into Official Sega Saturn Magazine (along with EMAP's official Sega Magazine). Nintendo Magazine System became Nintendo Official Magazine ISSN 1466-1748, and survived into the 21st century until the official Nintendo licence was recently won by Future Publishing. The last Mean Machines magazine was Mean Machines PlayStation ISSN 1364-3746 and it was only Mean Machines in name - the original Mean Machines staff had long since moved on. This soon folded as it simply couldn't compete with the massive success of Official PlayStation Magazine.
Key Staff Members
Julian Rignall (Editor), Gary Harrod (Designer), Richard Leadbetter (Staff Writer), Radion Automatic (Staff Writer), Oz Browne (Designer), Matt Regan (Staff Writer), Angus Swan (Staff Writer), Paul Glancey (Contributor), Rob Bright (Staff Writer)