Part 3: Decline and Fall

tsr: Getting back to VG&CE, we're approaching the end in 1993. What were the signs that the magazine couldn't go on as it was?
CB: We started doing some market research...we did these focus groups where they would sit kids in a room and they were complaining about how the magazine was too old, you know. I mean, we were sitting there behind a two-way mirror, and these kids were going "This magazine sucks! There's no tips in it!"
tsr: Wow, really?
In lieu of a scan of VideoGames, here is a scene to symbolize
what happened to VG&CE. Quinn Hart is VG&CE,
and the green guy is "marketing interests"
CB: Oh yeah. Andy Eddy was the Executive Editor at that time. He had his picture on the editorial page, and this kid pointed at it and said "I don't wanna hear what Grandpa has to say about this game!" (laughs) And Andy was on the other side of the mirror going "Oh my God...". It was a pretty traumatic day.
tsr: What's he doing now, speaking of which?
CB: He's working with Mike Davila, another former VG&CE guy, on a trade publication called GameWeek. So they're still together.

Anyway, after those focus group studies, they decided that VG&CE was aimed at an audience that was too old. We needed to go after kids, and we needed to split off the computer coverage from the console coverage. These were all put into place after Andy left the magazine. The fact was that sales were way down.
tsr: Speaking of which, what was the highest circulation that VG&CE had?
CB: [a scan of this?] I don't know; I was still just a freelancer when it peaked. I do know that VG&CE was the leading magazine in 1990 or so, but by the time 1992 came around and EGM did all those friggin' Street Fighter II covers, they just left us in the dust. Some of those issues of VG&CE, they got down as low as about 25,000 or 30,000 copies.
tsr: What month was the last issue of VG&CE?
CB: I think July or August of '93. And then the month after that was VideoGames, and it was...
tsr: "The Ultimate Gaming Guide".
CB: It was on its way down the toilet.
tsr: So I can guess your opinion of it? (laughs)
CB: Well, I was just going along with what the higher-ups in the company wanted us to do. I had an interest in seeing it do well, and I wanted to do good work, but to keep your job you had to do what you were told to do. I didn't think it'd all be negative, but, you know... eventually I was named Executive Editor, and I had no authority to do anything! I got the title that Andy used to have and I had no power. And that was a drag, because every month this shitty, horrible magazine was going out with my name all over it, and I was ashamed of it!
tsr: Did you get a lot of negative reader response?
CB: We got letters from kids who were not happy. But by that time, I would say probably 90 percent of the mail we got was not giving any constructive commentary at all. "You guys got any codes for Mortal Kombat II?" That was really all we got. Which was kind of a drag, because I know that the content of VG&CE as it was in '90 or '91 encouraged people to write intelligent letters and give feedback. That all went down the tubes.

tsr: So how long did the VideoGames format go on until?
CB: It lasted until August or September of '95. It was purchased by Ziff-Davis.
tsr: Then shut down?
CB: Yeah. Ziff-Davis bought EGM, then VideoGames and then shut it down. They took all of VideoGames' subscribers and started sending them EGM.
tsr: That was probably for the better.
CB: Well, yeah, actually, at that time it probably was.
|tsr recommends you get all your Pokemon info from
Tips & Tricks, quite possibly available at a bookstore near you
tsr: So how did Tips & Tricks come about? That was the same company?
CB: Yeah. We used to have this section in VG&CE called Easter Egg Hunt, and when we did the focus groups with the readers, they couldn't find the tips in the magazine. And when we pointed it out to them, they were like "Well, what's an easter egg? Wuzzat mean?" These were young kids, they never heard that term before. So we changed that section to Tips & Tricks.
tsr: Yeah, I remember VG&CE originally didn't even have a tip section. They just added it because it was the main feature of magazines like GamePro...
CB: Well, their reviews had tips embedded right in. So the kids came in and told us "GamePro's got way more tips than any other magazine" because of that.

Anyway, after awhile the guy who took over VideoGames decided that because VideoGames had guys like me and Mike Davila who knew about a thousand times more than he did, he decided he would get rid of us by starting other magazines and making us the Editors in Chief so he could have VideoGames to himself and run it into the ground. So Mike started up a magazine called Computer Player and I started Tips & Tricks. But what he didn't foresee was that Tips & Tricks would eventually outsell Video Games, and that it'd become a monthly magazine that was actually worth five bucks. As opposed to VideoGames which was worth hanging in the bathroom next to the toilet! (laughs)