GamePro is a monthly magazine devoted to console video games, although it added PC games coverage in 2000. The second most popular game magazine in America after Nintendo Power for much of the mid-to-late 1990s, its teen-oriented design and writing style has led it to be derided by “hardcore” gamers, but allows it to maintain a devoted audience that no other magazine targets.
GamePro was originally founded by Patrick Ferrell, a businessman who left his job as chief financial officer of Tengen in 1989 to start his own publishing outfit. Ferrell’s sister-in-law LeeAnne McDermott was the magazine’s first editor-in-chief, and the husband-and-wife team of Michael and Lynne Kavish were brought on as designers. The magazine was originally designed to be a little different from its competition — instead of functioning purely as a video game preview and review mag, it would also serve as a catalog of sorts for T-shirts, baseball caps, and other GamePro-branded merchandise.
Over 500,000 copies of the first issue were printed, but Ferrell was unable to find a newsstand distributor interested in carrying the magazine. As a result, the entire inventory was offloaded to Toys R Us, which gave an issue away with every video game purchased in their stores during May 1989. When that move still failed to stir up distributor interest, Ferrell decided to sell GamePro, and his company entered a publishing partnership with IDG in the summer of 1989, agreeing to take up editorial production of IDG’s PC Games in the process.
With IDG’s distribution power, GamePro quickly became a hit, thanks to its unique voice and design. Unlike most of its competition at the time save Nintendo Power, GamePro was an extremely colorful magazine, with each review filled with screenshots, vibrant backgrounds, and multiple playing tips, or “Protips”. All the writers also used pseudonyms, or “personas,” originally to disguise the magazine’s tiny editorial staff. The formula clicked with the kids and teens of the day, and many of the innovations and departments invented in the first year of GamePro are still in use in the magazine today.
By the 16-bit era, GamePro was the largest game magazine publisher in the U.S. outside of Nintendo. It would retain this position until the early 2000s, when changing gamer demographics eroded their target audience and they were slow to adapt. The past two years have seen major upheaval in both their editorial staff and their design; the magazine looks far more “modern” now, and a lot of GamePro’s traditional design quirks (including persona portraits and scores based on a smiley-face scale) have been removed.
Currently, GamePro is part of IDG Entertainment, a subsidiary of IDG that also publishes Code Vault and Star Wars Insider, as well as maintains several web sites. Overseas editions of GamePro are currently published in Germany, Spain, Australia and Turkey; the German one is 100% original content, while the others are a mix of original and exported content from the U.S. edition. British, Brazilian, Greek, and Latin American versions also existed at one point.
GamePro’s ABC-audited circulation for the six-month period ending June 2004 was 480,021.