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“The games media is in a period of

transition, which is as you’d expect given the changes that are going on in the wider world,” says Loman. “Over the past few years we’ve

seen the rise of mobile, social media and video which have changed how people consume media. The current transition is as significant as the move from print to online was in the 2000s. It will bring problems for some, and opportunities for others.” He adds: “Success will come to

Future’s Ferguson (left) and Byng- Maddick (far left) say the firm will be stronger even if it drops iconic games brands

The result has been a high quality product, but not necessarily a profitable one. “The big killer for many companies in digital is high operating costs,” says Damian Butt, who runs Future rival Imagine Publishing. “Some have become bloated, with endless rafts of upper and middle management who don’t actually do anything except attend conferences, sit on panels, and attend awards ceremonies whilst the core business implodes. “Creating digital magazines that look impressive for the judging panels of a seemingly endless series of digital awards galas seems to be the priority. “The key problem facing the

digital games media is that the growth we all expected to mirror tablet sales really hasn’t happened yet. This coupled with a serious drought in digital magazine advertising is causing widespread pain and panic in some quarters. Not disastrous if you keep costs

tight, focus on key brands, and continue to innovate. But if you publicly bet the company on digital, claim print is dead, and launch lots of ill-conceived digital-only titles that go on to fail, things are probably not looking so rosy right now.” Butt’s comments are harsh,

Some activities, while generating revenue, are often low margin. Hence the conclusion that the company should focus on areas where we see highest potential Zillah Byng-Maddick, Future

but they appear in-line with Byng-Maddick’s own thinking. She acknowledges that Future has become an overly complex business that has been distracted by low margin opportunities. “There is a lack of standardised

processes, leading to a lack of focus. This has meant that some activities, while generating revenue, are often low margin. Hence the conclusion that the company should focus on areas where we see highest potential,” she said in the firm’s latest financial report.

GAMES MEDIA IN CRISIS? But what does this all say about the full state of the games media? Is there a broader crisis brewing behind the scenes at these ‘old- guard’ publishing businesses?

those who are focused on doing specific things really well. Events such as EGX have become a big part of our business. Those who have a distinct offering, and can monetise it effectively, can still do really well.” Butt adds: “The games industry no longer supports or values games magazines, and yet they are part of a heritage stretching back to 1981 with the original CVG. It would be great to see digital spend diverted back to gaming magazines so that we can continue to provide gamers with quality content.” For all the negativity surrounding

Future’s results and the tough decisions it is making, Byng- Maddick does offer some optimism. She talks about focusing on Future’s strengths to better position the business. But what exactly does she mean by ‘strengths’? “It’s our world-class content,

and the experts who produce it,” concludes Ferguson. “We have a highly engaged audience that trusts us and our brands. We have to align our content strategy with our consumers’ needs.” And that is the biggest challenge around Future’s restructure. It does produce award-winning products from hugely talented journalists. So it must be careful that in its rush to save money it doesn’t lose the talent that has - so far - made the company worth saving.


FUTURE reports a rise in mobile usage, but suffers a four per cent drop in revenue as print decline accelerates. It reboots CVG, Edge and Golden Joysticks. Future’s CEO Stevie Spring steps down and is replaced by Mark Wood. 11


FUTURE issues a major profit warning and Mark Wood steps down, replaced by Zillah Byng-Maddick. Future opens UK Kotaku website, but all UK staff are put on consultation as the firm plans to significantly cut back.

June 6th 2014

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