Let's talk about the World of Warcraft: Official Magazine for a bit

You’ll recall that, a few months ago, we mentioned that Blizzard, in collaboration with Future (the publisher responsible for Edge in the UK, among other magazines), would be creating a World of Warcraft-themed magazine. It’s called World of Warcraft: Official Magazine and I just received the very first issue, Winter 2009. From a visual standpoint, the magazine is gorgeous. It’s like looking at a work of art. These guys clearly know their way around Adobe InDesign.

Some facts before we get too deep into this:

• There’s four issues per year (it’s a quarterly magazine), and a yearly subscription runs at $39.95 per year (or $34.95 per year if you buy two years up front)

• You’re not gonna see the magazine at your local Barnes & Noble because it’s subscription-only

• There’s no ads in the magazine

• It’s big: the first issue is 144 pages long

I think that’ll do.

Now, what’s the magazine like? As a matter of fact, there’s a 40-page preview online right now, so you can gain a pretty good understanding of what’s going on, what it looks like, etc.

Like other magazines these days, it’s not so much abut breaking news—Blizzard recognizes that there’s a boatload of WoW news online for free, and it’s not trying to compete with that—as it is about telling stories, interviews, history pieces, etc. Or, in the words of the magazine’s editorial director, Julian Rignall, “going behind the game itself with multiple perspectives and a stunning visual presentation.”

It’s pretty snazzy, yes.

The first article is a lore piece on Deathwing, the big red dragon whom we’ll be trying to slay in Cataclysm. The text is a little breezy for my taste—see how I referenced Edge earlier? I’m a snob like that—but the tone isn’t any less formal that your typical WoW.com post. Some articles are less joke-y than others—the article entitled “The Ultimate Guide to the Crusaders’ Coliseum” is pretty straight-forward, while the aforementioned Deathwing article is filled with all sorts of cutesy asides (and jokes in parentheses). Maybe you like that, I don’t know. Regardless, there’s a good mixture of “light” and “heavy” throughout.

The articles aren’t too long. This isn’t The New Yorker, so if many words scare you, don’t worry.

As I said, the layout is pretty phenomenal, just like in Future’s other magazines. Made on a Mac (well, several Macs), too, so feather in your cap if you support Steve Jobs’ team.

This is sort of an aside, but whatever. The iPad, Kindle, nook, and the countless other devices that are supposed to replace dead trees media: how are they supposed to capture the “feeling” of a well laid out magazine? It’s easy to digitize something like The New Yorker since it’s essentially just a giant wall of text with maybe the occasional black-and-white cartoon thrown in for good measure. It’s not a layout-dependent publication. Not even the Web can re-create that feeling. Go read Edge’s Web site and compare it with the printed publication—tell me you don’t prefer the printed version. I dare you! See, blogs have a standardized theme, but every article in a magazine can have its own look and feel, its own personality. Here, and by “here” I mean CrunchGear, everything looks the same, whether we’re running a serious piece or a silly piece. There’s no differentiation between anything. It’s boring.

Boring, but a hell of a lost more cost effective. Don’t get me wrong: magazines, particularly the traditional American model of selling a 12-issue subscription for $13 (and selling issues at retail for $6), are pretty much dead as disco. That helps explain the WoW magazine model: only four issues per year, and then you’re only printing the number you need to cover all your subscribers.

One last point I’d like to address, and that’s where Blizzard and Future find contributors. (Who wouldn’t want to see an article of theirs printed in fancy, glossy type surrounded by ridiculous illustrations?) Rest assured, you don’t need a cushy job at an Ivory Tower gaming magazine to find yourself in the WoW magazine. Blizzard and Future “scan blogs, community sites, WoW-related sites and all that good stuff, looking for people who really know their stuff.” Basically, if you or someone you know run a wicked Restro Druid Blogspot blog, it probably wouldn’t hurt to let Blizzard or Future know. I’m sure you can dig up an e-mail address or two.

So that’s it. I know it’s probably a hard sell to the young kids in the audience, where $40 isn’t exactly throwing itself at you, but for others, yeah, it’s really not bad at all.