Electronic Gaming Monthly (usually abbreviated to EGM) is a monthly magazine devoted to console games, with occasional coverage given to cell-phone games. It is the oldest (independent) American console game mag currently in operation, and is also considered to be the most prestigious.
Steve Harris, founder of EGM, was a high-school dropout and classic-era video game enthusiast who got his first job in the game business managing an Iowa-based arcade in 1984. Through that job, he bought the rights to the U.S. National Video Game Team, a group of “professional” gamers started by the Twin Galaxies arcade that toured the country and held game demonstrations. He also self-published his own fanzine, the Top Score Newsletter, irregularly starting in 1986.
In 1987, Harris partnered with his friend Jeffrey Peters to hold the 1987 Video Game Masters Tournament, a Video Game Team-sponsored national arcade game championship. He used the proceeds from that tournament to start Electronic Game Player, a “precursor” to EGM that closed after four issues due to a lack of interest from national distributors. The next year, just after the last issue of EGP in mid-1988, Harris received a call from Harvey Wasserman, a small magazine distributor in Chicago, who saw the potential for a game magazine and agreed to give Harris $70,000 to start a new magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly, in exchange for exclusive distribution rights.
The new magazine debuted with a one-shot buyer’s guide in early 1989. This issue was successful, selling 107,000 copies (60,000 of which were sold in a deal with Kay-Bee toy stores) and leading to the launch of a regular magazine. The periodical EGM (which “officially” debuted with the May 1989 issue) became profitable by the end of the year, and Wasserman used that to leverage a deal with Time Warner’s magazine distributor, bringing it to 50,000 supermarkets and drug stores nationwide.
EGM was the magazine of choice for many hardcore gamers in the early 90s, thanks to several innovations (most of which were borrowed from Japanese game magazines). With their “Review Crew” section (which debuted in issue 2), they were the first US magazine to offer multiple reviews and scores for each game they covered. Young gamers of the time also liked EGM’s writing style, as well as characters like Quartermann (who ran the rumor column) and Sushi-X (the mysterious game freak who was the “voice of the hardcore” in the Review Crew).
By 1993, EGM had grown in audited circulation from 64,000 to 152,000. Sendai aggressively expanded as EGM grew, launching new titles like Mega Play, Super NES Buyer’s Guide, Computer Game Review, and Super Gaming. Harris sold most of Sendai’s magazines and websites to Ziff Davis Media in 1996, and after a large-scale redesign to make it look more professional, EGM became the flagship publication of ZD’s new game-magazine section.
After a lengthy circulation battle with rival GamePro, EGM broke 500,000 circulation in 2002 and briefly broke 600,000 after a massive redesign in 2002 that emphasized short features and larger screenshots. Although Game Informer has it soundly beaten in circulation, EGM is still among the most respected magazines in video games, and it still attracts the most advertisers of any magazine.
EGM’s ABC-audited circulation for 2005 was 608,133.