You probably already know the back-story to CF‘s launch by now. If you don’t, you can hear it from Steve Jarratt here and Sean Masterson here. The short version is that Future felt ZZAP! 64 had lost its way. Its decision to cover Amiga stuff had also left a C64 shaped hole in the market (yes, we know there was YC, but it barely counted even then!).
The computer magazine market’s “first wind” was coming to an end in the early ’90s: by 1993, Future had an official tie-in with TV show Gamesmaster and moved on to become official flagwavers for both Sony and Microsoft a few years later. But in 1990, there was still an anarchic feel to most of their magazines – and their rivals, too. Here are three other mags from October 1990 and what they were doing. We’ll never see the like of any of ’em ever again!
Issue 66 of the once all-conquering, untouchable ZZAP! looks like it’s from a different age to Commodore Format 1. Sure, the magazine had a hell of a lot more colour than it used to – but this review of Flimbo’s Quest, for example, doesn’t look so much different to the ZZAP! of the mid 80s.
That said, there’s still some cracking content. John and Steve Rowlands’ Creature Feature was a monthly diary recording the creation of Clyde Radcliffe’s first adventure (give it a read and you’ll see CF‘s Andy Roberts gets a mention!). Better still, the covertape had an exclusive demo of a Creatures torture screen – the first time anyone ever got to play a fuzzy wuzzy.
SUMMING UP: It’s hard to dislike ZZAP!, but post Julian Rignall and Gary Penn it’s fair to say that the goal was open for CF to scoop up the audience of a magazine that’d run out of ideas.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM? ZZAP! dropped the Amiga coverage within six months of CF launching, before parent company Newsfield went bust in Autumn ’91. The magazine returned with a new publisher in time for christmas, before a strange period in which ZZAP! went downmarket. The magazine relaunched as Commodore Force in January 1992 (minus Miss Whiplash and the swearing). It was famous for some pretty cool covertapes and the old spirit returned – even if there were few games to review. Force lasted 16 issues.
Issue 60 of AA was also the magazine’s fifth birthday! The magazine that launched Future Publishing was enjoying an upswing in its fortunes under Rod Lawton. He’d thought the magazine to be stuck in the past and a teensie bit serious when he took over. On his watch, Amstrad Action posted repeated increases in circulation even though the CPC was in decline. Pretty impressive.
There’s a great warmth to the magazine this month and it’s thus so easy to see why it was popular: buying it made you feel like part of a club. The special birthday board game included cut-out-and-keep James Leach and (art editor) Ollie Aldertons, and the “second opinion” boxes have a bit of the old ZZAP! spirit about ’em.
SUMMING UP: This month’s AA is a good-natured read. Some of it still looks pretty old-school, but it got a CF inspired redesign within a year and a certain Simon Forrester arrived, too.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM? Amstrad Action was the first Future title to reach 100 issues. It battled on until 1995, sharing its resources with Commodore Format. Sadly, the July 1995 issue was projected to make a loss and was thus abandoned halfway through, denying AA its goodbye. The last cover infamously features the words “publish and be damned”.
One of the greatest computer magazines of all time – in spite of their own protestations that they were crap – was bought by Future from Dennis Publishing in the Spring of this year.
As usual, issue 58 often ignores the Spectrum entirely – breaking off its Iron Man preview to give readers an illustrated lesson in physics. There’s a piss-take “in depth” look at soap operas (no, really) and the big competition prize is a date with staff writer Jonathan Davies.
There’s some brilliant tech stuff (especially if you like type-ins), a round-up of flight sims and even an adventure game column. None of it sounds like it should work mashed up in the same mag, but it does. It really, really does. Love you, YS. Sniff…
SUMMING UP: There was never anything else quite like Your Sinclair. As they said in their last ever issue, mentioning the game in a review was seen as a sort of bonus. But it did always eventually pull back to Spectrum, and buying the magazine regularly made you really feel a part of something. Ace.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEM? Your Sinclair actually got even more surreal in 1991-2, with an agony aunt column and a pet stick insect. It folded in September 1993 as the Spectrum market shrank to almost zero but was given a wonderful send-off: you can read the Big Final Issue here. Retro Gamer licensed the title for a special tribute issue in 2004. CF
- With thanks to our friend Russ (on Twitter @russty_russ) for additional words and help. Commodore Format first appeared on September 20th. But magazines live in the future, so the coverdate was October. We’ve featured October issues here, too – all of them came out in the same fortnight as CF.