If there's one publication that's beloved to many and loyal to the fan base of the systems it covers, it's Nintendo Power. For the past 24 years, this publication, first put together by Nintendo of America and then taken over by Future Publishing U.S., provided readers with exclusives on new Nintendo games, as well as coverage on third-party releases, focus on the community and even giveaways that were awe-inspiring when it came to showing Nintendo love. It's the magazine a lot of us in the gaming world grew up with -- including journalists who were inspired by it when it came to writing.
Alas, all good things… must come to an end. Yesterday, Future Publishing announced that Nintendo Power would cease publication after the end of this year, after Nintendo opted to not renew the licensing agreement for the magazine. Apparently the company didn't even attempt to try and continue the publication online, as Electronic Games Magazine did last year. Thus, by this time in a few months, we'll have seen the last of Nintendo Power. Bummer.
The legacy of Nintendo Power spreads further than you may think. The magazine first got its start as Nintendo Fun Club News, which was run and produced with the help of the company's president, Howard Lincoln. The publication ran seven issues before it was eventually revamped as Nintendo Power, featuring Super Mario Bros. 2 on the cover. Early on, the magazine featured a number of items that were friendly for all ages, including a comic called "The Adventures of Howard and Nester," featuring the company president and an imaginary kid having a bunch of misadventures; Players Pulse, which focused on helping readers out through particular sections of games (complete with level layouts, put together by screenshots); and sections for readers' letters and news, as well as reviews and previews of upcoming games. Though some features were done away with in later issues (like the Nester comics), others stuck around for quite some time, with new subscribers joining in and enjoying the community-style layout of the magazine.
However, the popularity of Nintendo Power surged in the 1990's when the company launched an interesting promotion, along the same lines of what the Official Saturn Magazine did with its Christmas NiGHTS disc giveaway. Nintendo bundled copies of the new NES game Dragon Warrior (aka Dragon Quest) for each new subscriber, and it served them twofold. It allowed them to "get rid" of unsold copies of the game (in which, surprisingly, there were quite a few), while at the same time expanding their reader base by the thousands. Though it wasn't cheap, the promotion definitely paid off, and some fans were hooked to the magazine from here on in.
Coverage continued into the era of the SNES and the Nintendo 64, as well as Nintendo's beloved handhelds, the Game Boy library. Big articles covered both big first-party releases like Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64, while third party publishers also got their fair share of coverage, including LucasArts' Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Blast Corps. Giveaways were also happening quite often in the publication, from free foldout posters located in the middle of the magazine to drawings for dreamy Nintendo packages, including trips and game goodies. This certainly kept reader participation going.
In 2007, Nintendo made a change with the way it distributed Nintendo Power. Instead of handling the publication of the magazine itself, it turned to Future Publishing U.S. to handle distribution duties, and though some readers were taken aback at first, it definitely didn't affect the quality of the magazine. Coverage continued to remain focus on big Nintendo magazines, and the company even included a "bonus" issue, with a total of 13 magazines available for the year, rather than the usual 12. (Sadly, that stopped last year.) The partnership worked out really well, featuring a number of special issues, including one that celebrated Nintendo Power's 20th anniversary (and, for that matter, everything it covered), as well as a list of the top ten games of the decade.
And when Nintendo moved into its new generation of gaming, Nintendo Power stuck right along with it, covering new Wii releases like Wii Sports, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Super Mario Galaxy, both 1 and 2, as well as breaking exclusives like Metroid Other M and Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. Though a slight focus was taken off of giveaways, the magazine continued to pay tribute to its community, answering reader letters through the mailbag and even publishing pieces of artwork that were sent in.
But, alas, with the changing of the guard in media from print to online, it looks like Nintendo Power's time has finally come. A lot of publications are shutting down their print distribution in favor of working on the Internet, and Nintendo, feeling that the magazine just wasn't the right source of distribution when it came to information, didn't bother to renew their contact with Future with Nintendo Power. So, sometime later this year, the magazine will eventually fade away -- but the staff is working to make these final issues the best they can possibly be, with the last publication promising to go out with a bang. Perhaps we'll see something Wii U related…?
Though the actual magazine will be no more, the memories of Nintendo Power will never fade. For me, when I was just a teenager working through NES games for the first time, I would study maps in games like Faxandau and Castlevania, trying to find every secret and eventually beat bosses. The magazine went a lot way in helping me on that end. It was also cool to just "chill with", when it came to reading the comics, hearing the first tidbits about Super Mario Bros. 3 (before it came out on the PlayChoice 10 that summer) and seeing what the bonus poster of the month was.
1988-2012 Nintendo Power. The magazine may be no more, but the Power? It'll never fade.