Gamepro magazine, May 2010 issue cover: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction
|Vice President, Content||Julian Rignall|
|Categories||Video game journalism|
|First issue||Magazine: April 1989|
|Final issue||Magazine: Winter 2011|
|Based in||Oakland, California|
GamePro was an American multiplatform video game magazine media company that published online and print content covering the video game industry, video game hardware and video game software. The magazine featured content on various video game consoles, PC computers and mobile devices. GamePro Media properties included GamePro magazine and their website. The company was also a part subsidiary of the privately held International Data Group (IDG), a media, events and research technology group.
Originally published in 1989, GamePro magazine provided feature articles, news, previews and reviews on various video games, video game hardware and the entertainment video game industry. The magazine was published monthly (most recently from its headquarters in Oakland, California) with October 2011 being its last issue, after over 22 years of publication. GamePro's February 2010 issue introduced a redesigned layout and a new editorial direction focused on the people and culture of its gaming.
GamePro.com was officially launched in 1998. Updated daily, the website’s content included feature articles, news, previews, reviews, screenshots and videos covering video games, video game hardware and the entertainment gaming industry. The website also included user content such as forums, reviews and blogs. In January 2010, the website was redesigned to reflect the same new editorial changes being made in the print magazine. The website was based at Gamepro's headquarters in San Francisco from 1998–2002 and then in Oakland, California from 2002–11. Gamepro.com also had international variants that have now outlasted their parent publication in countries such as Germany, and France.
Gamepro was first established in late 1988 by Patrick Ferrell, his sister-in-law Leeanne McDermott, and the husband-wife design team of Michael and Lynne Kavish. They worked out of their houses throughout the San Francisco Bay Area before leasing their first office in Redwood City, California at the end of 1989. Lacking the cashflow to be able to sustain growth after publishing the first issue, the founding management team sought a major publisher and in 1989 found one with IDG Peterborough, a New Hampshire-based division of the global giant IDG. Led by a merger and acquisition team comprising IDG Peterborough President Roger Murphy and two other  executives, Jim McBrian and Roger Strukhoff, the magazine was acquired, then a few months later spun off as an independent business unit of IDG, under the leadership of Ferrell as president/CEO. The later addition of John Rousseau as publisher and editor-in-chief Wes Nihei, as well as renowned artist Francis Mao, established Gamepro as a large, profitable magazine worldwide publication. Francis Mao, acting in his role as art director for the nascent GamePro, contracted game illustrator Marc Ericksen to create the premiere cover for the first addition of the magazine. Ericksen would go on to produce five of the first ten covers for GamePro, eventually creating eight in total, and would continue a secondary role creating a number of the double page spreads for the very popular monthly Pro Tips section.
Over the years, the Gamepro offices have moved from Redwood City (1989–1991) to San Mateo (1991-1998) to San Francisco (1998-2002) and lastly Oakland. In 1993, the company was renamed from Gamepro Inc. to Infotainment World in reflection of its growing and diverse publication lines.
The magazine was known for its editors using comic book-like avatars and monikers when reviewing games. As of January 2004, however, Gamepro ceased to use the avatars due to a change in the overall design and layout of the magazine. Meanwhile, editorial voices carried over to the community on its online sister publication, www.gamepro.com.
Gamepro was also most widely famous for its ProTips, small pieces of gameplay tips and advice depicted with game screenshot captions. It also features a special corner section known as Code Vault (formerly C.S.A.T. Pro), where secret codes are all posted. These particular features have since gradually vanished. Code Vault was also published in print format and sold as a quarterly cheats and strategy magazine on newsstands.
There was also a TV show called GamePro TV. The show was hosted by J. D. Roth and Brennan Howard. The show was nationally syndicated for one year, then moved to cable (USA and Sci-Fi) for a second year.
In 1993, Patrick Ferrell sent Debra Vernon, VP of marketing, to a meeting between the games industry and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Realizing an opportunity, the team at the now-entitled Infotainment World launched E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The industry backed E3 and Ferrell partnered with the IDSA to produce the event. It was one of the biggest trade show launches in history.
Early in its lifespan, the magazine also included comic book pages about the adventures of a superhero named Gamepro who was a video game player from the real world brought into a dimension where video games were real to save it from creatures called the Evil Darklings. In 2003, Joyride Studios produced limited-edition action figures of some of the Gamepro editorial characters.
Gamepro also appeared in several international editions, including France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Brazil and Greece. Some of these publications share the North American content, while some others share only the name and logo but do feature different content.
Early in 2006, IDG Entertainment began to change internally and shift operational focus from a "Print to Online" to "Online to Print" publishing mentality. The first steps; build a large online network of web sites and rebuild the editorial team. Enter: George Jones, industry veteran.
In February 2006, Gamepro's online video channel, Games.net, launched a series of video-game related shows. The extensive online programming is geared towards an older and more mature audience.
In August 2006, the Gamepro online team spun off a new cheats site, GamerHelp.com. It was shortly followed by a video game information aggregation site, Games.net, and a dedicated gaming downloads site, GameDownloads.com.
Under the new leadership of George Jones, Gamepro magazine underwent a massive overhaul in the March 2007 issue. While losing some of the more dated elements of the magazine, the new arrangement focused on five main insertions: HD game images, more reviews and previews per issue, www.gamepro.com community showcase, user contributions and insider news. However the German Gamepro website is still run, however this time, by "GameStar" as their partner, as that website have a message at the top of the screen saying "Partner of GameStar" (Note: This is written in German)
In 2009, Gamepro's 20th anniversary coincided with 20-year industry veteran John Davison joining the newly named Gamepro Media team in October 2009 as executive vice president of content. Under Davison's direction, the magazine and website were redesigned in early 2010 with an editorial shift toward focusing on the people and culture of gaming. The redesigned magazine and website were met with an enthusiastic audience response.
In addition to announcing the hire of Davison in October 2009, the company also announced an "aggressive growth plan throughout 2009 and beyond, with numerous online media initiatives to deepen consumer engagement and create new opportunities for advertisers." Plans included partnering with sister company IDG TechNetwork to build a "boutique online network of sites."  The result was the introduction of the Gamepro Media Network.
In September 2010, Gamepro Media announced a new alliance with online magazine The Escapist offering marketers joint advertising programs for reaching an unduplicated male audience. The partnership was named the Gamepro Escapist Media Group.
Gamepro ended monthly publication after over 22 years with its October 2011 issue. Shortly after that issue, the magazine changed to Gamepro Quarterly, which was a quarterly publication using higher quality paper stock as well as being larger and thicker than all of the previous standard magazine issues. Gamepro Quarterly hit newsstands within the first half of November 2011. The quarterly endeavor lasted for only one issue before being scrapped. On November 30, it was announced that Gamepro as a magazine and a website would be shutting down on December 5, 2011. Gamepro then became part of the PC World website as a small section of the site covering the latest video games, run by the PC World staff.
At first, games were rated by five categories: Graphics, Sound, Gameplay, FunFactor, and Challenge. Later the "Challenge" category was dropped and the "Gameplay" category was renamed "Control". The ratings were initially on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0, in increments of 0.5, but a possible 0.5 score was later added. The first game to receive such a score was Battle Arena Toshinden URA for the Sega Saturn. Starting in October 1990, each score was accentuated with a cartoon face (The Gamepro Dude) depicting different expressions for different ratings. The ratings faces remained in use until about 2000. GamePro's reviews became esteemed enough that some games would display their GamePro ratings on their retail boxes.
After 2000, the category system was eliminated in favor of a single overall rating for each game on a scale of 1.0 to 5.0 stars. A graphic of five stars were shown alongside the written review. The number of stars a game earned was indicated by the number of solid stars (e.g., a game's 4-star rating was represented by showing 4 solid stars and one hollow star). No game ever received less than one star. An Editors' Choice Award was given to a game that earned either 4.5 or 5.0 stars.
GamePro had a "Role-Player's Realm" section dedicated to the coverage and reviews of role-playing video games. In the January 1997 issue, they published a list of "The Top Ten Best RPGs Ever" which consisted of the following games:
Later in 2008, GamePro published another list of "The 26 Best RPGs of the All Time", the top ten of which consisted of the following games:
GamePro is credited with coming up with the concept of "Protip", a short piece of advice as if spoken by an expert usually attached to an image, which was explained by former writer Dan Amrich that as part of their editorial process, they were encouraged to caption the three-to-seven images used in an article with such advice. One purported image from a GamePro review of Doom (1993) had a caption for an image of the game's final boss as "PROTIP: To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies". The advice, which is common sense and obvious advice for players of first-person shooters like Doom, was made fun of and created a meme of similarly obvious protips added as captions to pictures. However, the image was revealed to be a fake, created as an April's Fool joke by Andrew 'Linguica' Stine, the maintainer of the fansite doomworld.com.
Every April, as an April Fools' Day prank, Gamepro printed a 2-5 page satirical spoof of the magazine called Lamepro, a parody of Gamepro's own official title. The feature contained humorous game titles and fake news similar to The Onion, though some content, such as ways to get useless game glitches (games getting stuck, reset, or otherwise), was real. It seemed that no one was safe from Lamepro's satirical pen, even themselves. Many other game magazines were the butt of jokes by Lamepro.
Lamepro, however, was not without its own controversy. While some readers saw Lamepro as a chance to have a laugh at themselves and each other, some were offended by the types of jokes that were made. In 2000, a spoof advertisement made reference to a newer (and short-lived) game magazine called Incite: Video Games. At an industry charity auction, Incite bid and won an advertising space within Gamepro; in the spirit of charity, Gamepro agreed to advertise its own competition, even though it could be considered vaguely tasteless (a mailman delivering a copy of Incite to a female's door, with the legend "It must be that time of the month"). However, in the next Lamepro, a fake ad for a magazine named "In spite" was used as bird-cage lining, with the white-background ad saying "You get what you pay for," making reference to the first Incite issue costing 99 cents on newsstands. The following month, Incite responded in their Letters To The Editor section, spouting off in their subwords "Get it, GamePROSE," and many supposed fans of their magazine defending them against the spoof ad. During the remainder of the magazine's 10-month lifespan, Incite ran the "GamePROSE" quote in every issue.
In 2005, another spoof advertisement had a similar effect, and had an even greater controversy. The spoof was on account of gaming supersite IGN. Once again, on a white background, the ad showed a phony game site screenshot, with a logo similar to IGN's, spelling out "GNO.com" and the phrase "You can't spell ignorance without GNO." This sparked a letter to one of IGN's staff members who does a weekly feedback column on the site, who answered humorlessly that Gamepro wasn't mature at all for taking such a shot at IGN. Just a few weeks after the issue hit newsstands, word came out that there was an actual site on the internet that had the address GNO.com. The site was actually an internet publishing site, and Gamepro ran an apology in their letters section a few months later, stating they had no prior knowledge of the site before the issue went to print. Apparently the two sides eventually made peace, as no civil suits were filed.
Lamepro was not included in the April 2007 issue after Gamepro's magazine redesign.
What was called a "sister publication" to GamePro, PC Games, was published by IDG until 1999. It was founded in August 1988, but changed its name to Electronic Entertainment in late 1993 and PC Entertainment in early 1996. The title reverted to PC Games in June 1996. Its PC Games Online website was merged with several other IDG properties, including GamePro Online, to form the IDG Games Network in late 1997. The print version of PC Games was the fourth-largest computer game magazine in the United States during 1998, with a circulation of 169,281. In March 1999, it was purchased and closed by Imagine Publishing; its April 1999 issue was its last. Following this event, Imagine sent former subscribers of PC Games issues of PC Gamer US and PC Accelerator in its place. According to GameDaily, the move came as part of IDG's rebranding effort to lean more heavily on the GamePro name: coverage of computer games was thereafter centralized at PCGamePro.com, and in the "PC GamePro" section of GamePro's print edition.
Besides the American GamePro, there was also a Hungarian bi-weekly "version", published by IDG Hungary, which was the Hungarian subsidiary of the American company. There were nine issues of the Hungarian GamePro in only 2005 and it was edited by Marton Viragh ("mazur") and Viktor Fülöp ("ender"). The magazine was made by staff members of GameStar Hungary and the main idea (and Viragh's one) was that instead of a genuine console magazine the Hungarian GamePro should contain a style fitting supposedly a younger and less educated target audience, so Viragh asked from the journalists to write in a fake "youth slang", also the magazine was full of non-gaming, tabloid and rather primitive content - vastly different from what the original American GamePro was about. Since this was Viragh's only chance to be an editor at IDG Hungary at that time, he didn't mind much. GamePro Hungary was, in fact, the Bravo Magazine of gaming - for even lower level IQ readers. Viragh's lacking editor skills and basic ideas about what gaming journalism should be, this "fake edgy" tabloid/gamer magazine mishmash soon became an utter failure, and by summer 2005 and after nine issues, the Hungarian GamePro was finished. In the last issue, Viragh promised to "come back for more", which obviously didn't happen and Marton Viragh was out of a job, once again - after his botched magazine. All the issues of the Hungarian GamePro can be downloaded from here in pdf format.
... back then the Control category was called Gameplay ...