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The cover of Zzap!64 issue 1 (May 1985)
|First issue||May 1985|
|Company||Newsfield Publications Ltd
Zzap!64 was a computer games magazine covering games on the Commodore International series of computers, especially the Commodore 64 (C64). It was published in the UK by Newsfield Publications Ltd and later by Europress Impact.
The magazine launched in April, with the cover date May 1985, as the sister magazine to CRASH. It focused on the C64 for much of its shelf life, but later incorporated Amiga game news and reviews. Like CRASH for the ZX Spectrum, it had a dedicated cult following amongst C64 owners and was well known for its irreverent sense of humour as well as its extensive, detailed coverage of the C64 scene. The magazine adopted an innovative review system that involved the use of the reviewers' faces, artistically rendered by in-house artists Oli Frey and Mark Kendrick, to express their reaction to the games. These eventually evolved into static cartoons as the magazine began catering for a younger market.
By 1992, the magazine had changed so dramatically in design and editorial direction that then-publisher Europress decided to relaunch the magazine. Thus, issue 91 of Zzap!64 became issue 1 of Commodore Force, a magazine that itself lasted until March 1994.
The first issue of Zzap!64, dated May 1985, was released on April 11, 1985. Its inaugural editorial team included editor Chris Anderson, Software Editor Bob Wade, freelance writer Steve Cooke (who joined the staff from the recently folded Personal Computer Games), and reviewers Gary Penn and Julian Rignall, who won their jobs after having placed as finalists at a video game competition. The editorial HQ was in Yeovil, more than 120 miles from Newsfield's headquarters in Ludlow; the team was relocated to Ludlow after three months to cut costs, and Anderson and Wade left the staff after declining to make the move. Anderson would later found Future Publishing and the TED Conference.
As the Amiga gained popularity in the UK, Zzap!64 began to publish occasional reviews of Amiga games. The Amiga coverage became a fixed feature of the magazine in issue 43 (November 1988), when the title was renamed to Zzap!64 Amiga.
The magazine experienced controversy in 1989, when three out of four reviewers (Gordon Houghton, Kati Hamza and Maff Evans) were fired and replaced during production of issue 50 (June 1989). The only one remaining, Paul Rand, had been employed at Zzap!64 a mere two months. Houghton wrote a farewell editorial, which was never published—instead, issue 50's editorial mentioned nothing of what happened, and the issue featured content from the three fired reviewers without discussing their fates.
Issue 74 (June 1991) saw the dropping of all Amiga coverage (the word "Amiga" was dropped from the name in 1990), and the magazine became completely devoted to the C64 once more. Four months later the publisher Newsfield declared bankruptcy and publication was suspended for a month. Europress Impact (a satellite company of Europress launched by Roger Kean, Oliver Frey and Jonathan Rignall) became the new publisher of Zzap!64, beginning with issue 79 (December 1991).
Issue 90 (November 1992) was the last official Zzap!64 issue. From the following month, the magazine was replaced by Commodore Force.
The Italian edition (just titled ZZap!), authorised by the original publisher, was not limited to Commodore 64 games, but it also reviewed games for other 8-bit machines like the ZX Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC and the Atari 8-bit family. Around 80% of the content was translated with the remainder written in Italy. From issue 1 (May 1986) to issue 73 (December 1992) it was released as an actual magazine; with issue 74 (January 1993) it became an inset of the Italian version of The Games Machine until December 1993 when it stopped being published.
From 1996 to 1999, Zzap! became an online magazine, a PC gaming website with a different "cover" each month and a mailbag, which reviewed games with the same style of the original magazine.
In 2002, a special "issue 85", dedicated to then recently released games for 8-bit machines, was released in PDF format.
In March 2002, a special "Issue 107" of Zzap!64 was published digitally in PDF format, later receiving a limited print run of 200 copies. Originally intended as a fan project based on a suggestion by journalist Cameron Davis in a Zzap!64 discussion forum, a number of ex-Newsfield writers later volunteered to join the project, including former editors Gordon Houghton, Robin Hogg and Paul Glancey.
The special issue reflected the C64's continuing popularity in the 21st Century as a platform for retro gamers and hobbyists, with the majority of reviews focusing on recently released C64 games. The magazine's design was based on "classic era" Zzap!64, and the front cover was based on an illustration by former Newsfield artist Oli Frey, significantly revised by designer Craig Grannell.
Another special issue of Zzap!64 was created in July 2005 to celebrate the magazine's twentieth anniversary. Dubbed The Def Tribute to Zzap!64, it was professionally printed and given away with issue 18 of Retro Gamer magazine. Although more celebratory and retrospective in design than issue 107, it nevertheless featured a great deal of new content, including a foreword and articles by former Newsfield director and Zzap!64 editor Roger Kean and new material from former editors Gary Penn and Chris Anderson. The front cover and centerfold featured rare illustrations by Oli Frey from his pre-Newsfield days.
- Chris Anderson
- Bob Wade
- Roger Kean
- Gary Penn
- Julian Rignall
- Gary Liddon
- Sean Masterson
- Steve Jarratt
- Dan Gilbert
- Paul Glancey
- Matthew "Maff" Evans
- Kati Hamza
- Robin Hogg
- Mark Caswell
- Carl Rowley
- Gordon Houghton
- Ciarán Brennan
- Richard Eddy
- Lucy Hickman
- Stuart Wynne
- "Footy" Phil King
- Steve Shields
- Dominic Handy (aka Paul Sumner)
- Warren Lapworth
- Paul Rand
- Nik Wild
- Massimo Valducci
- Chuck Vomit (a green troll fond of billygoats)
- Lloyd Mangram (editor of the Letters pages, named for golfer Lloyd Mangrum)
- Paul Sumner (Reviewer. A pseudonym used by many contributing writers, including Warren Lapworth's early spell and Dominic Handy, who the caricature image was based on)
- The White Wizard (editor of the adventure game pages)
- The Harlequin (took over from the White Wizard)
- The Scorelord (manager of the high score page, ZZAP! Challenges, and bleach-drinking alien)
- Miss Whiplash (replaced both Lloyd Mangram and The Harlequin's roles in the magazine, in conjunction with Bash the Barbarian)
- Bash the Barbarian (Adventure columnist and letters page editor)
- Rockford, Thingie and Nose (doodles in the margin, two of them from video games - Rockford from Boulder Dash, Thingie from Thing On A Spring)
- Tamara Knight (transporter-booth saleswoman, and heroine of a nine-part serial by Mel Croucher)
- The Terminal Man (science fiction character, part human, part computer and part virus, was featured in a comic in the magazine)
- "The History of Zzap!64". The Def Guide to Zzap!64. Retrieved 2006-05-23.
- "Zzap!Back - Meet the team". ZZAP!Back. Retrieved 2011-09-14.
- "Progetto Zzap! Italia - all Italian issues of Zzap! in downloadable format". Xenia Edizioni. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- "Le abbiamo viste tutte - Italian article on the rebirth of Zzap! as a gaming website" (in Italian). Paolo Besser. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- "Zzap! issue 85" (PDF) (in Italian). Xenia Edizioni. Retrieved 2011-02-25.
- "The Burrow - Gordon Houghton's Zzap! - Where are they now page". Gordon Houghton. Retrieved 2007-10-22.