Game Players (spelled Game Player’s until 1991) is the multiplatform magazine in the stable of Signal Research publications that launched in the late 1980s. Along with VideoGames & Computer Entertainment, it was the one of the only magazines at the time to include both PC and console game coverage.
The history of Game Players can be divided into two parts, based on its two separate publishing runs.
The first era (1989-1991)
Signal Research was founded in 1988 by Robert Lock, the former publisher of COMPUTE!, who set up the outfit in Greensboro, NC, the same town as his old company. After releasing a series of successful Nintendo magazines in 1988, Signal founded Game Players as the flagship of a series of publications and media about all forms of games, including videotapes on soccer training.
The magazine, much like early issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly, was heavily text-oriented with only a few screenshots and other art. This gave it an extremely bland look that was improved upon only slightly in later issues, making it look outdated compared to the competition in 1991. This led to the curious situation of Game Players (the alleged flagship magazine) being outsold by its Nintendo sub-magazine, Game Players Nintendo Guide.
In October 1991, Signal defaulted on a loan from one of its venture-capital investors, thanks to over-optimistic sales expectations, mounting printing costs, and the 1991 recession. The company made a last-ditch attempt to save itself by canceling three titles, but this didn’t stave off its creditors, and it was officially foreclosed in February 1992.
This means that the October 1991 issue (which, ironically, is a redesign-launch issue) is the last known edition of the first era of Game Players. A November 1991 issue was almost certainly completed, but it is unknown whether it was actually published. If anyone has it, we’d like to know.
The second era (1993-1996)
The Game Players multiplatform title was resurrected in 1993 with the merging of Game Players Nintendo Guide and Game Players Sega Guide, the two surviving magazines of Signal Research, which was bought out by its creditors in 1992 and renamed GP Publications.
The two magazines were continued mainly so the creditors could find a buyer for them, and they found it in Chris Anderson, founder of Future Publishing in Britain. Searching for an entry into the US magazine market, Anderson bought GP in 1993, eventually leaving the UK to work at GP full time and moving the outfit to Burlingame, CA.
Under his guidance (which had already began with the Nintendo and Sega mags), Game Players became a far more professional and well-written magazine. Writers like Chris Slate, Jeff Lundrigan, Mike Salmon, and Bill Donohue turned GP into a reader-oriented magazine filled with offbeat and engaging humor — a very UK-like product in the US marketplace.
The magazine changed names to Ultra Game Players in 1996 in tandem with a large-scale redesign.