After exactly one and a half years of publishing CRASH, it seems an opportune moment for a change of editorship. I am moving over to become the editor of our sister magazine, ZZAP! 64 because its editor, Chris Anderson, has now left Newsfield. The responsibility for CRASH falls into the experienced hands of Graeme Kidd, who has been the assistant editor since Christmas. The change around hardly represents a big move, since both our desks face each other across some six feet of the same office area and barely a rubber band’s flick away from software editor Jeremy Spencer.
It’s an opportune moment, as well, in terms of timing, for CRASH has now become, thanks to you the readers, just about the most popular computer title in Britain, with sales rivalling those of the biggest and longest established publications in the field. Every indication points to the fact that sales are still rising rapidly — so, hello to the 4,000 (approximately) new readers this month!
I haven’t entirely abandoned CRASH, however, as there are still lots of things to write for the magazine, but from now on, the day to day headaches will all belong to Graeme! So with no more ado, I’ll hand over the page to your new editor, who has a few strong things to say about... what follows.
There’s more to a good magazine than a string of exclusives. In the last couple of months, however, the race for ‘scoops’ in the software industry has been on — with a vengeance — and a few people have been left with egg on their faces in the hunt for exclusives.
Some software houses have a very strange idea of what constitutes an exclusive story — one in particular peddled each part of a three-part game as three separate exclusives, while another managed to hand out an exclusive on the same product to several magazines simultaneously, which left everyone looking rather foolish. ‘It all depends on what you mean by “an exclusive”,’ as one software house said recently.
All good fun really, except a couple of magazines, annoyed at having missed out on previews and exclusives have resorted to ‘dirty tricks’. ‘We don’t hold discussions with companies which advertise with CRASH’ was the message given to a software house by one of our supposedly reputable competitors at the start of a meeting the other week: the meeting ended rather abruptly! A day or so later a carload of executives from the meetingless magazine was sent up the M1 to buy an expensive lunch far the people who advertised in CRASH. (We don’t have to buy our advertisers large lunches — cheers lads!)
Another editor, this time from a Commodore magazine, was miffed by an exclusive review of a certain game in our sister magazine ZZAP! 64, and rang up the software house concerned to inform them that someone had been in touch with his classified advertisement manager trying to sell pirate copies. It would be strange, considering the circumstances, if he hadn’t recognised perfectly well that this would cast aspersions on ZZAP!’s integrity, as these copies must either have been taken from the one and only working version of the game, lent to ZZAP! for the review, or have been supplied by someone from the software house itself; indeed to make the point, the software house was told that the classified ad contained wording to the effect ‘...as seen in ZZAP! magazine’. As it was, the editor concerned was unable to provide any names and addresses to substantiate his allegations — nor was the software house through their own private investigations. No pirate copies existed, and the whole exercise was a set-up.
The same thing happened to CRASH — the same software company was contacted about a Spectrum game by the same magazine publisher, who claimed that pirates had contacted them having obtained copies of their Spectrum game which we reviewed exclusively. Oddly, the magazine claimed, these pirates mostly lived in the Midlands. (Ludlow’s in the Midlands — geddit?) This time, the allegation was that either CRASH mail order had supplied the game, well before release date, or that the pirates had clandestinely received an illegal copy from someone at CRASH. Trouble was, the ‘informant’ didn’t know that the name of the game had been changed at the last moment, and that we had been given such an early copy, that ours still had the original name. If we had supplied a pirate, he would be offering copies of the game with its original name — which the informant didn’t know. Moral: If you’re going to cast aspersions, make sure you get your facts straight.
But such behind the scenes wranglings between supposed grown-ups, involving peeved magazine editors and fibbing advertisement salespeople telling untruths about our circulation figures are not really of direct impact to CRASH readers — a band which grows in number by thousands every month. And they have little impact on CRASH itself.
If our competitors stopped to think for a moment, they might realise that giving a full review to a game which has only been seen in a part finished state, just so they can use the banner ‘EXCLUSIVE’, is really ripping off their readers.
Giving a couple of paragraphs by way of a review to a game which hasn’t even seen the inside of their office as one Spectrum magazine recently did, is really a total con job. On the Commodore 64 front, the ZZAP! team has noticed exclusive reviews of ‘Commodore’ games in other magazines which have been illustrated by Spectrum screen shots (Rocky Horror Show, for one) and are really reviews of Spectrum games!
Writing an exclusive review of an unfinished game by lifting chunks from Press Releases, and joining them together with well-chosen phrases so it sounds like the writer has played the game is little short of fraudulent. Especially if the author has only played the game on another computer, or had a ten-minute run through during a visit to the software house’s offices.
A few true stories, each from a different magazine, all of which are probably losing readers to CRASH (and ZZAP!) as a result of their dirty dealings. Suits us!
Like all journalists, the CRASH team enjoy getting a good exclusive — but if it is an exclusive preview, we’ll call it that, and not pretend we’ve had a chance to play the game and then go on to invent a ‘full’ review. We’ve had a couple of early looks at new products in this issue of CRASH, from Mikro-Gen and Legend amongst others, but we’re not calling them exclusives.
We’ve dropped out of the race — we’re winning a far more important one. Anyway, our readers are quite bright enough to work out where they can read genuine comments ahead of the crowd, without having to be told so in big letters. Nor have we got time for petty wranglings and smear campaigns — we’re too busy having fun and putting together magazines we enjoy writing as much as we hope you enjoy reading.