You might remember the Kickstarter project that funded Pure Nintendo Magazine. You may also remember the recent Operation Moonfall Kickstarter to make Majora’s Mask-themed posters. Turns out that Nate Sylvia–who helped with the Pure Nintendo Magazine Kickstarter–has joined with poster creator Lyndon Willoughby to make a new Sony-focused digital video game magazine called “Let’s Play” (or “LP” for short) also funded through Kickstarter. I was sceptical of this idea and I wanted to find out what place a video game magazine has in the 21st century, in a time where the internet is king and even magazines like Nintendo Power have shut down. I had an opportunity to sit down with COO Nate Sylvia and the magazine’s president and creative director Lyndon to ask them what their thoughts on the matter were.
Hombre de Mundo: My main question to the two of you is what I’d say is the obvious elephant in the room. Everywhere you look, people are saying that traditional magazines are dying and people are turning to the internet for all their gaming news, reviews etc. How does LP fit into this and what about this magazine do you think people will prefer over big gaming sites like IGN?
Nate Sylvia: Great question. LP is a digital publication, so our readers will be able to take it everywhere they take their device. They’ll also get an honest opinion about the products and services Sony and their partners have to offer. We’ll provide more access to indie devs as well. We don’t think they get the attention they deserve at the moment.
Lyndon: The fact that we are an entirely digital publication helps us overcome a lot of the limitations associated with a traditional magazine. The accessibility of having our magazine accessible from any device is definitely convenient but it is by no means unique in gaming journalism. What really sets us apart is A) our focus on giving equal exposure to the smallest independent gaming outfits as well as the AAA studios, and B) The attitude we have going into our interviews with these studios. We don’t want to simply report on what kind of game they are making and why the game will be awesome, we want to get to know the developers as artists and masters of their craft. We want to have real conversations with these people and get connected to the games we cover in a very personal way. To me I have always felt like that is something that a lot of gaming journalism outlets lack in their coverage. For instance, every gaming site in the world loves to drop a big story every time thatgamecompany mentions that they are thinking about their next game. While that is definitely cool news, why are we not focusing more of our energy on getting into the minds of the people who made one of the most revolutionary and beautiful titles in gaming history (Journey). We want to fill that gap.
Hombre de Mundo: So it’s a more personal experience than your average news coverage that you strive for, then.
Lyndon: Yeah. Like any other magazine we will have previews, reviews, editor impressions and all that, but the goal is to make it feel more real. If you and your buddies were shooting the breeze about games over beers then you would have a very natural and enjoyable (and honest) conversation. Our status as an indie publication means that we aren’t required to report anything except for our exact feelings on the stuff we cover.
Hombre de Mundo: I think that–certainly–many people would want to get coverage of their favourite games that feel more personal and more honest than what some perceive is the very state that the established corporate media offers them, which is probably why so many independent sites and YouTube personalities have been rising in popularity over the past couple of years. What sets you guys apart from most people though is that you’re sticking to an (albeit digital) bi-monthly magazine format, whereas most independent media would be on their own website or YouTube. Why have you selected this specific route?
Lyndon: I think we chose to pursue the standard magazine format simply because as a business model it is a more sound system. Our subscribers pay yearly, and that payment gets them six issues full of exclusive and real content in addition to any tidbits we feel like posting through social media. This way our subscribers know what they are getting for their money. It’s a complete package, and an actual marketable product as opposed to a system where we post an article here and there through YouTube or whatever. In that system it would be a lot harder to make sure that we are providing the same amount of content yearly so that everyone gets their money’s worth. The other reason is that as you said before, sites like IGN have the instant coverage scene on lock. They are the best at what they do. We don’t want to compete with that scene. They have an office full of paid staff who keep new content coming in and out all day every day. We want to trade the instant gratification for something which goes a little deeper and thus requires more organization and time. We might cater to a bit more of a niche crowd than IGN, but for people who are truly interested in diving deeper into gaming as an emerging art form, our content will be pure gold.
Hombre de Mundo: Can you elaborate a bit on the revenue side of things? Personally, the biggest drawback to having a subscription is actually paying for that coverage. Even if you can deliver on getting unique content that readers will prefer over traditional gaming sites, do you think it’s enough to convince them to open their wallets? Wouldn’t it be better to run a site that gets revenue from ads? I can only assume this must’ve been a big part of your discussion when you decided to launch this project, so what was the conclusion of that?
Lyndon: Well it’s definitely true that a lot of sites resort to ads to cover their financial expenses and there’s nothing wrong with that. We wanted to steer clear of that for the purpose of providing subscribers with something that is no more and no less than what we advertise to them. The minute that we fill our issues with ads is the minute that we lose a little bit of control over what the final product looks like when it gets to the subscribers. We aren’t asking for gold bars for this magazine, at 10 dollars a year it is relatively modest price-wise. By charging a subscription we want to build a loyal readership full of people that read the issue and say ‘yeah that was worth 10 bucks a year’. There are challenges that come with that as well. That puts the burden on us to deliver a really quality product, but we feel like we are up to the challenge. This way Let’s Play lives or dies based on our efforts alone.
Hombre de Mundo: I think a lot of people can admire that mentality.
Lyndon: I hope so. If nothing else it should show people that for us this is about a passion that we all share, not about filling up a bank account somewhere. The price of subscription helps to give something back to the people that are going to be breaking a sweat to get these issues put together. We want to give people the best that we can for their money, if that means that one month we publish more content than people saw in the previous issue then awesome, we will report on whatever we feel is worth reporting. If it turns out that we aren’t able to fulfil our obligation to our subscribers and provide a worthy amount of good content, then we will be issuing refunds. This system keeps us responsible.
Hombre de Mundo: I have one more question for Nate who was part of Pure Nintendo Magazine. Obviously at ZU we’re big fans of Nintendo and there is a lot about Nintendo that sets them apart from other companies; not only their scores of lovable games and characters. LP focuses on Sony and the Playstation brand. What is unique about Sony, why do you want to focus on them and how will the coverage change from what you covered with Pure Nintendo?
Nate: I’ll always be a Nintendo fan, no question. I grew up playing The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Metroid and Castlevania. They’ll always be games I pick up day one. That being said, I feel like I’ve matured as a gamer and a consumer and I like a bit more depth to my games. I like PlayStation (the PS4 specifically) as it’s a graphical powerhouse. I love being able to play in lush environments with crazy particle effects and super smooth speed. I’m even more impressed with the future of PSN with all kinds of indie projects being added. I feel Sony has made more of an effort to support smaller studios. AAA titles are great and I love to play games like COD and Madden; but there’s something special about games like Resogun. I’ve played for hours and I still love looking at it. Also, the customer experience matters to us as well. Sony has always been a leader in customer service and the overall experience of their customers. They don’t require a paid subscription even though they could. They do this for the benefit of their fans. Compared to Microsoft, that’s a big win in my book.
At the end of the day, Sony and their partners produce amazing exclusive titles that people want to play. We want to share our thoughts and feelings about these fantastic products. They’re fun, exciting and amazingly close to real life. That’s what Let’s Play Magazine is about. Sharing our experiences and giving our readers the news, previews and reviews they’re looking to read. All with an indie flare.
Lyndon: For sure. I don’t think either of us would say that we believe first-party Sony IP’s to be superior to Nintendo’s or Microsoft’s. This isn’t about which system/games we prefer. The Legend of Zelda has always been and will always be the standard by which I judge all other games. That being said, Sony makes it the easiest for a little studio with a big awesome vision to publish to their hardware and we believe some of the best experiences available in gaming are starting to come from that area. Games like Journey and Hyper Light Drifter (which are on our first month’s cover issue) are starting to grab the attention of gamers in a big, big way. People notice quality and uniqueness every time. It’s great because not only are the smaller indie devs quicker to get into a real conversation, it also allows us to do them a favor by covering their title and giving it a bit of promotion. That’s pretty exciting for us since we wanna see these guys succeed in the biggest way possible.
Hombre de Mundo: Alright, thanks a lot for taking the time to talk about this and we wish you good luck on your Kickstarter project.
Lyndon: If any of your readers have questions or concerns about anything they read here, I would encourage them to shoot an email to lyndon[at]letsplayindiemag.com. I’m happy to talk with anyone. Also if anyone has any indie titles they are super-interested in seeing covered, we are more than open to suggestions.