Flashback to the 90’s and you’ll see an abundance of gaming magazines covering store shelves each one pushing to be the best. Fast forward to today and that’s something that isn’t as prevalent these days. Call me old but there was nothing quite like going to the store with your parents and getting your favorite gaming magazine as a reward for being well behaved. Or was that just me? Maybe I wasn’t a well-behaved kid and needed positive reinforcement.
So what happened? Times changed and everything seems to be going digital, games, books, magazines, and entertainment in general. But there’ll always be something appealing about holding something tangible, especially gaming related. Being able to pick up a retro gaming magazine even today is a feeling of true nostalgia.
A feeling that a good friend of mine, Andrew, is trying to recapture with his latest endeavor, a gaming magazine in 2020 with a focus on Indie/Retro and AAA games. A true triple threat! Well, a quadruple threat if you include the editor himself.
So today I thought we could interview the man himself about what exactly to expect from issue 1. What process he went through to accomplish his dream. What freebies are included (yes that’s right there are freebies), how much it will cost and what to expect from upcoming issues?
So Andrew first off thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for me. Do you want to introduce yourself to the audience?
My pleasure Emmett. Thanks for this opportunity with your audience. My Mum always bought me gaming magazines growing up. I just couldn’t get enough. It didn’t even matter if I didn’t own the console that the magazine was for. I remember dreaming about owning a PC. To me, PC games were lightyears ahead of consoles at the time. I have one particular memory reading a pc gaming magazine that reviewed Star Trek The Next Generation: Klingon Honor Guard. This was back in 1998 and I hadn’t quite got my first PC. I read that review over and over and over. My eyes must have burned a hole through that magazine.
I love playing games and discovering new ones from the 90’s. I don’t have many hobbies. I tried many things throughout the years including candle making! I also tried my hand at creating these extremely elaborate journals with a million different combinations of sections, photos, and pull-outs. I kept gravitating back to gaming.
Wow that’s such a diverse group of hobbies to try, all equally as interesting as the last.
Why start a gaming magazine in 2020?
When you say it out loud like that it does sound strange doesn’t it? Recently I found many of my old magazines in my parents roof space. It got me thinking. After 20 years these are like new. How many websites are still accessible from 20 years ago in full? Will they be accessible in another 20 years? The great thing about anything physical that stands on its own is that if it’s looked after it will be here many decades if not centuries from now. Digital has its place but it shouldn’t take over completely. At some point in the future we will look back and realise we stored everything digitally including family photographs in old phones that are long damaged or lost. Or saved them in a cloud somewhere and that company or service has long shut down. Digital is not permanent.
I am very nostalgic. It extends beyond games into tv shows, books, photos and locations. I wanted to create something that you could hold, collect and who knows. Some kid may someday reach into their parents roof space in the 2040’s and pull out their Pixel Bison collection and be filled with nostalgia. You can’t replicate that sensation of finding lost treasure with digital.
When I was in Secondary School I believe I was third form which would have made me 13, 14? I wanted to write a book. Anyone who knows me also knows I am a huge Star Trek fan and I am generally very interested in science and science fiction. I played around with some science fiction writing. I even wrote a chapter or two introducing the United Earth Alliance. This may have been loosely based on Star Treks Federation.
I came to realise I needed a creative outlet. Writing a book from start to finish always seemed daunting and I never really got past a few chapters. The thought of writing a book on gaming did occur to me. I recently purchased Dreamcast: Year One by Andrew Dickinson which is a fantastic book and highly looking forward to Dreamcast: Year Two.
I began toying with the idea of writing a book of my own on gaming but my previous experience made me switch gears and instead of writing a book I could create a magazine!
What was the process you undertook in order to make this dream a reality?
Well like anything I do it all starts with planning outcomes in my head. First playing with the idea that if I would enjoy a physical gaming magazine then others might enjoy it too. I began to think what sort of gaming magazine I wanted. Was it mostly reviews, interviews, or thoughts on games I enjoy?
I searched online for other gaming magazines in the same A5 format that I was planning and I did find more than I expected. I would like to give a shout out to Vinny from Freeze 64 magazine. I was so in awe of what he had accomplished. After ordering several of his magazines I reached out directly and advised him I was considering launching my own gaming magazine and would he have any pointers for me.
To my surprise he did reply. His main piece of advice was to create content that I would enjoy not what I thought others would enjoy and let the process happen naturally.
After some researching and a lot of thinking into what I wanted my magazine to be I began the process of securing the name, getting the domain and hosting purchased and reaching out to indie developers and studios. I am not a graphic designer so I hired someone to create my logo and they done an absolutely smashing job!
I planned out a rough idea of a release schedule and began looking into publishing software within my budget and pricing up the cost to print with various digital printers. With digital printing we now have the luxury of smaller order numbers. Before and perhaps only a few years ago you would have to order a much higher quantity.
Now that I had all the pieces lined up and had the costings all figured out I knew this had a great chance of success. From the moment I conceived of this new business venture I knew I needed to treat it as such and ensure it could sustain itself.
What issues did you face, or are currently facing bringing this magazine to fruition?
I had a lot to learn and a very short window to do it in. Once I had chosen my publishing software I had to learn it on the fly. I didn’t have the luxury of learning every feature before starting, so I just started writing in content, adding pictures etc and then if I discovered a better way to do it later, I came back and redone it.
Timing is the main thing with this. I have to plan the print schedule and deadlines but this also is impacted on content I am waiting on from others. I have learned to plan in some buffer space to allow for late submission.
The other decision I reached when creating this magazine was that I wanted to do it on my own. I didn’t want contributors. This has put a lot of pressure on me as to what content can get into the magazine on time.
The business side of things, researching the printers to use, software etc. That was the easy part. Timing of articles, time to plan content, write, design and send to print is the hard part.
What’s it going to cost the customer to get the magazine straight to their door?
Pixel Bison costs £4.99 with just £2.00 shipping and packaging within the UK. I purchased board backed envelopes to prevent the magazine from bending during shipping. Shipping is also first class.
I am also offering two subscription options. 6 months for £37.99 which includes UK shipping and 12 months for £69.99 including UK shipping.
Pixel Bison is available worldwide and through the now live website, shipping rates are calculated automatically.
What can we expect from the first issue?
I am still finding my feet and it will probably be a few issues before finally setting into my stride. I will also be listening to advice and feedback from the readers.
The features section of the first issue is all interviews. The cover feature covers an interview with the devs behind Röki. I got to play the demo, it is a beautiful game and I am saying no more. I also got talking to Lauran who previously worked at Lionhead Studios as their Social media Co-ordinator. Fantastic insight into the studio and a lovely piece. I also caught up with Roo of Quest Arrest! A great game for the Gameboy in which I interview the developer himself and include a review!
You will also find some previews in there, a little piece on some games announced for the new Xbox Series X and a retro section which I have dedicated solely to some great members of the retro gaming community on twitter.
Gaming magazines from yesteryear used to have freebies that we as collectors still love to collect, will we get any from your magazine?
Yes absolutely! I am trying with each issue to include some freebies. In the first issue while supplies last you can find a Röki badge from the team at Polygon Treehouse and an A4 poster which is the map of Quest Arrest! Comes in very handy when playing the game actually.
How often do you aim to release each issue?
I am aiming for a monthly release, I am hoping it will be a fairly stable release around the mid point of each month.
Dreaming big, who would you most like to interview for your magazine, an ultimate dream dev for you?
Wow. That’s a great question. It would have to be Sid Meier. I played Civilization so much and kept up with so many of the latest releases. He also has stated previously that he has always had an interest in science fiction and watched the original series of Star Trek.
He went on to make Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. He also founded Microprose alongside Bill Stealey in 1982. Anyone who plays Star Trek games knows Microprose were behind Star Trek: The Next Generation: Birth of the Federation. A fantastic strategy game that I enjoy to this day.
It would be a dream fulfilled to chat with him, discuss his past, his inspirations and where he is headed next.
When can we expect issue 1?
Issue one shall be on your doors no later than the second week of June. It may land earlier.
What advice do you have for others who have dreams of reaching out to devs but might not know where to start?
I would say just go for it. Don’t be afraid to find their email address, social media accounts or websites and reach out.
Involve yourself in their social accounts, go follow them, interact and say hi. There is no magic formula. Sometimes you won’t get an answer immediately or at all. The good news is that there are many game devs out there and many of them are looking for an outlet for their work.
What made you decide to use the printer you’re using?
It came down to a few things. Cost, speed of delivery, quality and standard of the customer service I received.
What can we expect from you in the future, would you like to branch out with other projects?
Ooooh I like this. Well I already have plans for something exciting with Pixel Bison, but it won’t be ready for several months. So, this is a bit of an exclusive for you. I want collectable A5 folders to house the magazine collection. This will protect the magazines much better and create a truly collectable item. They will look pretty damn amazing on the gaming shelves!
As for branching out into other projects, no. Pixel Bison has my full attention. I would like to see Pixel Bison grow. I don’t just mean by volume of issues sold. I am talking about creating something special. Imagine some quirky location for a bunch of creative people to work on something exciting and fun.
What does your magazine offer to set you apart from the competition?
Well first off Pixel Bison cannot currently compete with the big boys out there from huge publishing entities and it’s not meant to. My magazine is being created out of my love for gaming and providing an outlet for indie devs which don’t get the same love in a physical medium.
Pixel Bison is also trying to bring back something that we have lost recently in a lot of magazines. I remember getting a gaming mag that came with cheat books, posters, and freebies. This is what made them so special and collectible. It is this spirit that sets Pixel Bison apart.
I’d like to thank Andrew once again for taking the time from his busy schedule just a few weeks before launch to talk about his latest venture. From what I’ve seen he has absolutely smashed it out of the park! I can already tell I’ll be a regular subscriber and if you’d like to check out the magazine for yourself he has posted a few more images of the magazine on his website – https://www.pixelbison.com. When you’re there you can also check out what comes with the magazine alongside options for purchasing yourself a copy. It comes with the Quest Arrest A4 map AND has an exclusive reveal of the back art for the physical box!
Don’t forget ALL PRE ORDERS come hand signed by the man himself, a true collector’s item!