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Strategy guide

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Strategy guides are instruction books that contain hints or complete solutions to specific video games. The line between strategy guides and video game walkthroughs is somewhat blurred, with the former often containing or being written around the latter. Strategy guides are often published in print, both in book form and also as articles within video game magazines. In cases of exceptionally popular game titles, guides may be sold through more mainstream publication channels, such as bookstores or even newsstands. Some publishers also sell E-Book versions on their websites.

Strategy guides marketed as "official" are written by game distributors themselves or licensed to a specialty publishing house; Prima Games and Piggyback Interactive specialise in writing official guides for various companies. There are also a number of publishers who make unlicensed, "unofficial" strategy guides, and many of today's mainstream publishers began by making such guides.

Typical contents[edit]

The contents of a strategy guide varies between game genres. Typically, the guides contain:

  • Detailed gameplay information, for example, maneuvers that are not detailed in the manual.
  • Complete maps of the game, which show the placement of all items (including hidden and hard-to-find ones).
  • Detailed instructions for specific locations on how to proceed from there.
  • Explanations of puzzles.
  • Details of enemies, including techniques on defeating individual enemies (especially bosses), the segment for minor enemies is commonly referred to as a bestiary.
  • Checklist of collectible items.
  • Cheats and game editing, although this has been less common in official guides.
  • Walkthroughs to help the player complete levels.
  • Advice on tactics and strategies for use in multi-player (games with multi-player only)

Publishing before game release[edit]

In order to be released at the same time as the game, commercial strategy guides are often based on a pre-release version of the game, rather than the final retail version; BradyGames' guide for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas included misplaced item locations and a slightly different map, which made some directions impossible to follow. BradyGames rectified such mistakes by offering free errata pages for download from their website.

Strategy guides are sometimes published before the game itself is published. This can be risky because there is always the chance that a game will end up not being released. For example, in January 2001, Prima published a guide (ISBN 0-7615-3125-4) for the Dreamcast version of Half-Life, which was canceled late in development when Sega discontinued the console.

Online guides[edit]

Online strategy guides and FAQs are hosted at sites such as GameFAQs and IGN FAQs, though much of this content is user generated and not published by the company. A number of other sites contain strategy guides, and videos in a number of niche areas, such as Role Playing Games or First Person Shooters. These sites may attract a more limited set of viewers, but can include more depth of content. Video-sharing sites such as YouTube have given rise to video walkthroughs using programs such as Fraps, which allows players to more easily mirror the strategies being described. These videos are re-posted to a number of sites.[1]

Video game wikis are used as both strategy guides and documentation. Content is generated and edited completely by users. Wikis allow for information to updated if a developer introduced a new patch to the game. Wiki farms such as Fandom and Gamepedia host a large number of unofficial video game wikis while wikis can be integrated into the overall site such as IGN Wikis. While most wikis are considered unofficial and not supported by the developer, some developers may choose to do so for various reasons. These reasons may include resolving copyright issues and real world trading that may be found on unofficial wikis. For example, ArenaNet hosts an official wiki for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2, citing that "it's often more complete and useful than the documentation that ArenaNet generates internally."[2] Information on the wiki is integrated into the game, allowing players to access information from in game. Although the wiki is hosted by ArenaNet, the site is run and moderated by the community and contributions are released under GNU Free Document License (GDFL) similar to sites such as Wikipedia.

Aside from the quality of the content, the community aspect of fan walkthroughs is significant. One perspective argues that walkthroughs are shared stories for gamers and game fans. In creating walkthroughs, gamers actively create meaning for the games. This is similar to activities of traditional media such as books, films and television (e.g., Fan Fiction).[3]

The increasing availability of free online FAQs and walkthroughs has taken away some of the demand for commercial strategy guides, although there is still a large market for them. Print guides often feature extensive picture-by-picture walkthroughs, maps, and game art, none of which is possible in the plain-text works hosted by prominent sites such as GameFAQs. Some newer sites allow strategy guides to be hosted in formats that allow pictures and videos, which further undercuts the advantages of print strategy guides.

Some publishers have tried combining their printed books with the Internet. In 2000, the Final Fantasy IX Official Strategy Guide was published by BradyGames, but much of the information was contained on Square's PlayOnline website. This seemed like a good way to promote PlayOnline, while creating a guide that would have updatable content, but it was widely panned. Players saw no need of buying a book if a significant part of the content was online; and there was no point paying for online content from one site, if it was available for free on another site. As a result, Square abandoned the online strategy guide concept and released traditional printed guides for future games.[4]

Source mistakes[edit]

Some companies make mistakes in the book about the game itself, such as stating that "Character A" has a relationship with "Character B", despite there being no relationship. In a strategy guide for Diddy Kong Racing they referred to characters with terms such as "The Dinosaur" and "The Octopus" instead of their names.

Games journalist and guide writer Alan Emrich has severely criticized recent strategy guides for:

  • Containing only facts which should have been in the game manual, e.g. about the user interface.
  • Failing to teach users how to improve their play.
  • Failing to provide information which helps them to make decisions, e.g. about the capabilities and costs of units and buildings.
  • Being inaccurate, often because the developers have tweaked the game during the publication lead time.

The faults, he says, are mainly caused by the game publishers' and guide publishers' haste to get their products on to the market;[5] "[previously] strategy guides were published after a game was released so that they could be accurate, even to the point of including information changes from late game 'patch' releases. The Master of Orion official strategy guide that Tom Hughes and I wrote is just that kind of book."[6]


Best-selling guide books[edit]

Title Author(s) Year Sales Game(s) Ref
Final Fantasy VIII Ultimania Studio BentStuff 1999 2,200,000 Final Fantasy VIII [7]
Mastering Pac-Man Ken Uston 1981 1,700,000 Pac-Man [8]
Final Fantasy VII Kaitai Shinsho Studio BentStuff 1997 1,700,000 Final Fantasy VII [7]
Super Mario Bros: The Complete Strategy Guide Tokuma Shoten, Naoto Yamamoto 1985 1,300,000 Super Mario Bros. [9][10]
Myst: The Official Strategy Guide Rusel DeMaria, Rick Barba 1993 1,200,000 Myst [11]
Final Fantasy X Scenario Ultimania Studio BentStuff 2001 1,000,000 Final Fantasy X [7]
How to Master the Video Games Tom Hirschfeld 1981 650,000 Arcade games [12]
Tomb Raider III strategy guide Un­known 1999 350,000 Tomb Raider III [13]

Best-selling guide series[edit]

Series Sales Revenue Games Ref
Ultimania 12,000,000 Un­known Square Enix games [14]
Pokémon strategy books Un­known $142,000,000 Pokémon series [15]
Metal Gear Solid strategy guides 3,000,000 Un­known Metal Gear Solid series [16]
Pac-Man guide books 1,700,000+ Un­known Pac-Man [8]
Grand Theft Auto guide books 1,600,000 Un­known Grand Theft Auto series [17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Example of YouTube Video Re-posts". Archived from the original on 2016-01-09.
  2. ^ "About Guild Wars Wiki".
  3. ^ Consalvo, Mia (2003). "Zelda 64 and Video Game Fans: A Walkthrough of Games, Intertextuality, and Narrative". Television & New Media. 4 (3): 321. doi:10.1177/1527476403253993. S2CID 145162771.
  4. ^ "Square's Innovative Strategy Guide Strategy". Archived from the original on June 17, 2006.
  5. ^ "Decline of Guides". Archived from the original on 2008-07-26. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
  6. ^ Emrich, Alan (2001). "Master of Orion: The History of a Game Series — One Man's Telling of a Cosmic Tale". Master of Orion III - The Official Web Site. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "会社沿革" [Company History]. Studio BentStuff (in Japanese). 15 June 2016. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  8. ^ a b Uston, Ken (Fall 1983). "Arcade Games: Mastering Pac-Man Plus and Super Pac-Man". Creative Computing: Video & Arcade Games. Vol. 1, no. 2. p. 32.
  9. ^ Gifford, Kevin (May 4, 2011). "More on Tokuma's Mario Guide". Magweasel. Archived from the original on 2014-03-06. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  10. ^ Yamamoto, Naoto (2011-04-23). "【1985】 スーパーマリオ狂騒曲 - ふぁみこん「雑誌」昔話" [(1985) Super Mario Bros. Famicom "Magazine" Old Story]. Hatena (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2011-04-26. Retrieved 22 February 2021.
  11. ^ DeMaria, Rusel (7 December 2018). High Score! Expanded: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (3rd ed.). CRC Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-429-77139-2.
  12. ^ "Learn The Code Book And Beat Video Games". Ludington Daily News. March 1, 1982. p. 25.
  13. ^ "DataStream" (PDF). Edge. No. 79 (December 1999). 24 November 1999. p. 132.
  14. ^ "会社情報" [Company Information]. Studio BentStuff (in Japanese). 15 June 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-01-12. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  15. ^ "Nakagawa Report ~ Toward a Sustainable and Competitive Industrial Structure ~ (Summary)" (PDF). Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RETI) (in Japanese). Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). May 2004. p. 10. Retrieved 27 January 2021.
  16. ^ Siegel, Tatiana; Kit, Borys (9 February 2007). "'Metal Gear Solid' film being forged at Columbia". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 September 2021.
  17. ^ Johnson, Steven (22 May 2005). "Viva virtuality". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 September 2021.