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Nintendo Power magazine is a monthly news and strategy magazine formerly published in-house by Nintendo. As of issue #222 (December 2007), Nintendo contracted publishing duties to Future US. The first issue published was July/August of 1988 spotlighting the NES game Super Mario Bros. 2. It remains one of the longest-running and most successful video game magazines in the United States.
Overview and Design
From the beginning, Nintendo Power has focused heavily on providing game strategy, tips and tricks, reviews, and previews of upcoming games. Seeing as the magazine enjoyed nearly 20 years of Nintendo-directed publication, NP was the ultimate source for detailed mapping and insider knowledge delivered directly from the programming teams. As a result, the magazine has enjoyed the reputation of being the definitive source for all things Nintendo, separating itself from a more traditionally speculative approach as used by its contemporaries. The magazine has remained financially successful and is one of the longest-running game oriented magazines still in circulation.
Today, though still "officially" affiliated with Nintendo, the magazine has become more similar to its contemporaries (i.e. Electronic Gaming Monthly), with a greater focus on staff reviews, gossip, and fan letters than in previous years. However, it still includes game strategies from time to time.
In mid-1998, Nintendo Power allowed outside advertising within its pages, something former reserved for Nintendo-based products only. In its early years, ads only appeared in the first and last few pages of the magazine, leaving no ads to break up the magazine's editorial content. These front cover advertisements were often simply subscription offers.
In July 2005, Nintendo Power created a new design to appeal to a wider gaming audience, including a new logo and article format. Along with the cosmetic overhaul came a greater focus on staff reviews, rumor-milling and fan service including an expanded and enhanced reader mail segment (known as "Pulse") and an equally revamped "Community" section. Nintendo also introduced a new incentive promotional offer that involves the registration of three Nintendo (or Nintendo affiliated) products through Nintendo.com to receive a free three issue trial subscription to Nintendo Power.
In addition to the aforementioned redesign, the magazine implemented a feature called "Corrector's Corner" which is usually found in the "Pulse" section. NP has gained an unfortunate reputation for persistent typos, faux factoids, and the occasional printing error. Eagle-eyed readers send in their evidence, and the staff reluctantly - and duteously - admit their mistakes.
Issues #001 - #221
Nintendo Power began as the several page long Nintendo Fun Club News, but after a few years changed to Nintendo Power. The first issue published 3.6 million copies, with every member of the Nintendo Fun Club receiving a free one. Almost one third of the members subscribed. In mid-1988 Nintendo Fun Club News came to an end. Nintendo Power was born and could be found on newsstands in true magazine fashion.
The magazine was edited at first by Fun Club "President" Howard Philips, himself an avid game player. While the Fun Club News focused solely on games made in-house by Nintendo, Nintendo Power was created to allow for reviews of games produced by those licensed by Nintendo, such as Konami, Capcom, and the like. Nintendo Power's mascot in the late 1980s and early 1990s was Nester, a comic character created by Philips. After Philips left the company, Nester became the magazine's sole mascot. Early issues of the magazine featured a two-page Howard and Nester comic, which was later replaced with the two-page Nester's Adventures, later reduced to one page, and eventually dropped altogether. Subsequently, Mario replaced Nester as the mascot of the magazine. Later, during the early 2000s, the magazine made another mascot out of its Senior Writer, Alan Averill. Apparently very camera-shy, Averill himself never appeared in any photos; rather, he was represented by a plush toy of a Blue Slime from Dragon Quest. Fans often clamored to see what Averill actually looked like, but the magazine continued to substitute with photos of the toy, and even claimed that Alan was, in fact, a Blue Slime. Eventually, Averill retired from Nintendo Power, joining Nintendo of America's localization department. To this day, most fans have never seen a real image of Averill. The inclusion of a photo of Mr. T in the Player's Pulse section became a running gag in the early half of 2005. More recently, running gags have centered around Chuck Norris references and jokes at the expense of writer Chris Shepperd.
During the early 1990s the magazine used what was a unique and very expensive promotion; giving away a free copy of the new NES game Dragon Warrior to every new subscriber. However, this promotion was in part a sly move on Nintendo's part to make money off a failure: Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan) games had not sold nearly as well as Nintendo had anticipated, and it was left with a large number of unsold cartridges on its hands. The promotion both helped the company get rid of the unsold merchandise, and won the magazine thousands of new subscribers.
Following the release of the Super Nintendo, the magazine featured lengthy, continuous comic stories based on Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After these stories ended, they were replaced by similar multi-issue stories based on Star Fox, Super Metroid, and later on, N64 games such as Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Blast Corps. Comics based on the animated series of Pokémon and Kirby: Right Back At Ya! also made several appearances. More recently, short excerpts of comic books based on Custom Robo and Metal Gear Solid have been featured (as well as a very short Metroid Prime comic). Nintendo Power has concluded a comic based on the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games, which is translated from the original Japanese version and reads in traditional manga format.
In issues 196-200, Nintendo Power featured a "Top 200" game list, revealing 40 of them in countdown form every issue. The top 5 were Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Resident Evil 4, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in that respective order.
In issue 211, Nintendo Power began listing upcoming Wii games and Virtual Console titles, and has since done away with both Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance lists.
Issues #222 and Beyond
On September 19, 2007, Nintendo officially announced that the large magazine publisher Future US would begin publishing Nintendo Power. Their first official issue was released in October, as issue #222 (December 2007). It was also revealed that circulation would be increased to 13 issues a year, with the extra magazine being a holiday season bonus issue.
At this time it is uncertain how these announcements will affect future issues in terms of staff and articles. Currently, much of the staff from before Future US started publishing the magazine still remain on staff, assisting Future in creating the magazine.
Note: Not all of these sections are in every issue
Official Guides from Nintendo Power
Nintendo Power also produces a series of strategy magazines called Official Guides from Nintendo Power. The first OGNP was simply called The Official Nintendo Player's Guide. When Nintendo Power switched from a bi-monthly magazine to a monthly magazine in May 1990, every other issue was a Strategy Guide focused on a single game. This didn't last long however, and only four such Strategy Guides were released. The magazine claimed this was because the strategy guides were intended to review the games that they considered the best, but they eventually abandoned the concept upon realizing that the best games usually come out shortly before Christmas. Starting in January of 1991, Nintendo Power became a full fledged monthly magazine with issue #20. Issues prior to that have become highly collectible.
The first four Player's Guides in book format were the NES Game Atlas (featuring maps of popular NES franchises), Game Boy (featuring select Game Boy games), Mario Mania (featuring information about Nintendo's mascot, Mario, but was mostly a full strategy guide of the then-new Super Mario World), and Super NES (featuring select Super NES games). All four were mailed free to subscribers of Nintendo Power in 1992. Later, a fifth free Player's Guide, Top Secret Passwords, featured passwords (and a few cheats) for selected NES, Super NES and Game Boy games. This guide was sent to subscribers who were now in the Super Power Club. Though originally billed as a subscriber exclusive, it was eventually sold at retailers.
Beginning with The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past, Player's Guides adopted a "one specific game" format, much like the earlier Nintendo Power Strategy Guides. They are separate entities from the magazine itself. The concept is now emulated by other publishing companies such as Brady Games or Prima for Nintendo and other video game consoles. Almost all major Nintendo video games released today will have an OGNP associated with it.
OGNPs are often sold at video game retailers, magazine stands and can also be ordered directly from Nintendo Power. Most Nintendo Power subscription packages include a free OGNP as an incentive.
With all of the FAQs for video games on the internet in modern times, OGNPs have suffered lower sales, and have long been a major incentive used for renewing subscription through the mail. T-shirts and the like are offered on occasion through the mail-in offers, however, by subscribing through the internet, many more premiums are available (more T-shirts, for example).
As of mid-2007, Nintendo seems to have quietly discontinued the series after the publication of the guide for Pokémon Battle Revolution. Guides for popular games, including recent releases, are going out of stock at the Nintendo Online Store. No guide was published for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and none have been announced for soon-to-be-released major Nintendo projects. However, Chris Slate stated in Issue #223 that the project is on hiatus.
While Nintendo no longer produces guides in house, they have licensed several of their most popular properties to Prima Games, in order to produce the "official" guide. This can be seen with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and Super Mario Galaxy, among others.
Nintendo Power Awards
The Nintendo Power Awards, once called the Nester Awards (after the cartoon character featured in early issues of Nintendo Power), are the magazine's annual ceremony of recognition for the previous calendar year's games. The awards are nominated by the staff members, and the awards are voted on by the readers via Nintendo.com. The results, which appear in a following issue, reflect both the winners based on readers' votes and which candidates the writers felt should have won. As of 2006, there have been eighteen annual awards featured in what is usually the May issue of the following year, the first awards having taken place in 1989, honoring games released in 1988
A controversy ensued upon publication of the second issue of the magazine. Parents called in to complain to the magazine's office that the cover, featuring Castlevania II: Simon's Quest with an image of Simon holding the severed head of Dracula, frightened their children and had resulted in many of them having nightmares. For a long time following, Nintendo Power steered clear of cover artwork that featured such graphic imagery. Also, in the January 2007 issue's "PlayBack" column, which spotlighted Simon's Quest, Chris Shepperd mentioned the second issue's cover as being "one of our favorite cover images of all time."
Nintendo Power has received controversy concerning Conker's Bad Fur Day, a Nintendo 64 video game developed by then-second party developer Rare. The game was very controversial, containing sex, alcohol, obscene language, and drugs. Nintendo Power did not even mention the game upon its release, causing mild controversy about the family image that Nintendo was trying to preserve.
Starting with issue #92, pieces of Nintendo characters were printed on the spine of the magazine. When placed upright in order, the magazines form complete characters when viewed from the side. When Nintendo Power was redesigned, the spine picture idea was abandoned. The printed characters include:
Promotional VHS tapes
On occasion, many subscribers received promotional VHS tapes, although they were also sent to owners that registered their game consoles. The practice has ceased with the availability of DVD and online video. Among these were tapes promoting Donkey Kong Country (), Nintendo 64, Star Fox 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Pokémon and one that covered both Donkey Kong 64 and Jet Force Gemini. Some of the tapes featured "hidden" previews at the end after the credits.
During 2001, Nintendo Power released a spin-off semi-magazine named Nintendo Power Advance, featuring the Game Boy Advance and its games. Four issues of Nintendo Power Advance were printed, the last of which served as a strategy guide for Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2.
With the release of Pokémon for the Game Boy; Nintendo Power included 6 mini-issues of 'Pokemon Power' mainly featuring tips and strategies for the game.
Since issue one, Nintendo Power has had a "Player's Poll Contest" (later called "Player's Poll Sweepstakes") where there would be a grand prize, a 2nd place prize, and 3rd place prize once a multiple-choice survey about the magazine's content and demographic was submitted. Ever since the Future US takeover, effective Issue #222, the survey has been omitted, and one only needs to send in basic information (name, address, e-mail address, etc.) The Grand Prize often holds a game, the system to play it on, and other miscellaneous prizes. The Second Place Prize yields only the game itself. The Third Place Prize was a T-shirt, but has since been dropped since the Future US takeover. In Issue #223 (Holiday 2007), a Nintendo Power reader sent in a question regarding the "Player's Poll" and Future US stated that they "didn't really want to lose" the Player's Poll but, according to Future US, "[Future US] have always depended on input from people at nintendo.com's NSider forums." Future US continues with that due to Nintendo's decision to indefinitely close the NSider forums, "Unfortunately, there isn't much we can do right at this moment." However, Future US hinted that they could possibly create a new forum to replace the NSider forums and that they will be currently "looking at ways to bring those cut sections [Player's Poll and Most Wanted] as soon as possible."