Next Generation (officially NextGen after September 1999) is a magazine devoted to PC and console games, with a heavy emphasis on in-depth features and interviews. Its intelligent, critical writing and often controversial features makes it unique in US magazine history; it was arguably the most smartly-written game magazine the country has ever seen.
Its history begins with Edge, a UK magazine launched by Future Publishing in August 1993. As the first issue’s introduction plainly stated, Edge was not meant for everyone: “This magazine is brought to you by dedicated, hardened gameplayers and experts in all fields of videogaming technology…[it] taps into a huge underworld of videogame entertainment that simply isn’t covered anywhere else. It answers questions other magazines don’t even know how to ask.”
Next Generation was the US edition of Edge (although this was never explicitly stated), and for the first half of its life, the two magazines shared similar designs and editorial voices. Until the NextGen redesign in 1999, the majority of Next Generation’s features (and around a quarter of the previews, mostly of games produced in Europe) were taken from the pages of Edge. For its part, Edge would print a Next Generation feature in its magazine about once every few months.
Both magazines were squarely targeted at the mature game enthusiast, and everything they didn’t care about — from the tips section to the pages of written-off-the-press-release previews — were removed. Next Generation’s writers used the extra space to write game coverage more professional and in-depth than any magazine previous, from multi-page interviews with company executives to expansive previews that covered the entire development history of the game.
Next Generation’s first editor was Neil West, who left his job at MEGA (the Genesis counterpart to Super Play) to take the position. Under his guide, the magazine offered coverage that no one else offered, including several memorable interviews with industry folk like Trip Hawkins and Atari’s Sam Tramiel. Nearly every feature and preview featured extensive commentary and input from the developers themselves, making the magazine one of the only publications to truly bring the full game-development process to the reader.
This unique coverage helped Next Generation attract a faithful audience of hardcore gamers, and for its first few years, the magazine was unparalleled in the US. Things began to change after a few years, though, beginning with West’s departure in 1997 and culminating with its renaming to NextGen in 1999 and its concurrent redesign (or “Lifecycle 2”, as the editors called it). Although its beat was largely the same, the staff began to run out of steam, and much of the writing began to sound wooden and unrefined. Other magazines began to catch up with NextGen’s research-heavy game coverage, making the publication’s unique voice not so unique by 2000.
After some experimentation with page size and other aspects of the title, Imagine Media suddenly shut NextGen down in late 2001 as part of a long series of magazine foldings worldwide. The name was resurrected by Future Publishing in 2005 in the form of next-gen.biz, an industry news and job-search website.