The console gaming magazine market can be a complex one for retailers to follow, dependent as it is upon the trends in the gaming market itself. Currently the market covers Sony's PlayStation 1 & 2, Nintendo's 64 and GameBoy consoles, and Sega's Dreamcast. However, regular introductions of new consoles makes the sector volatile, with magazines launching and closing in line with market trends. Nevertheless, the high cover price of these titles combined with the popularity and constant rejuvenation of the consoles make it a lucrative market for retailers. At a glance, the latest set of ABC results reflect a poorly performing market, with the majority of established magazines posting circulation drops. However, publishers are urging retailers to look beyond the figures to the market conditions. They attribute the decline of the market leading PlayStation1 titles to the launch of the PlayStation2 console in November. They also point to the introduction of several new PS2-based titles into the sector ­ one of which, Future's Official PlayStation2, went straight in at the number two spot ­ as good news for retailers. Not one of the PS1 titles was unaffected by the PS2 launch, with the leading magazine in the console gaming sector, Future's Official PlayStation Magazine, falling a hefty 38.7% in the last period as consumer interest in PlayStation1 waned. Nevertheless, the title maintained its massive lead, with 215,508 overall, selling more than its nearest three rivals put together. Future, which recently "restructured" its business with the closure of six UK titles ­ including occasional PlayStation-based titles Best Games Ever and PlayStation Tips ­ insists the drop was expected. Mia Roberts, publisher of Future's gaming titles, comments: "The decline was inevitable because Official PlayStation Magazine is dedicated to PlayStation1, and with the launch of PlayStation2, the market expectation has moved on. "However, there are 6.5 million owners of PlayStation1 machines in the UK and this means we are absolutely committed to this market." Growth in the PlayStation market is now expected to come from PS2 titles, with further decline of the PS1 sector. Future's Roberts points out that despite the UK launch of the PS2 console being delayed for two months, the company's Official PlayStation2 got off to a good start, posting 81,247 through the newstrade in its first ABC ­ more than Future achieved in the same time with the now market leader Official PlayStation Magazine. And Nigel Taylor, commercial director at Computec Media, which publishes PlayStation World and Playzone, asks retailers to bear with the market: "The delayed launch of PS2 did the market no good, but it's here now. We're still not in the land of milk and honey, but it is only going to get better ­ we just need the first great game to come out. We are looking forward to the next ABC period, which should show significant growth." Similarly, Kevin Petley, circulation and marketing director at Paragon, which publishes Play, the third bestseller, advises retailers to look beyond the ABC figures to what he sees as an "exciting future". He says: "We urge retailers not to react in a kneejerk fashion. It is a volatile market ­ that's its nature. This year will be one of the most exciting years we have seen in the Sony market. It would be crazy for retailers not to be testing out these magazines properly. "They may not sell as much as women's glossies, but they have a high cover price and a loyal following." Indeed, publishers compete heatedly for the loyalty of consumers, with covermounting a favoured strategy. Computec, for example, has pledged to covermount a DVD on every issue of PlayStation World magazine. Nigel Taylor says: "We have spent our marketing money on covermounting DVDs to pick up the new PS2 users. PSW lost ABC in the last period but the last two issues in the period ­ when we started to covermount ­ sold more than 94,000 each, and the covermounted DVD is holding the title in the 90,000s." However, with a price point of £2.99, Taylor admits the strategy can't be sustained. For Paragon, covermounting forms part of a wider marketing strategy. Kevin Petley says: "We don't tend to do DVDs, becuase what looks like a high quality covermount often isn't. We covermount things like books that support the quality of the editorial. If we have got a good covermount, sales will go up 20%. But it's no good for retailers if it can't be sustained, as they will have too many magazines on subsequent issues." As the only publisher to publish across all console formats, Paragon also uses its magazines to promote each other and tends to work with individual retail groups on promotions. "For example, when a new game is coming out we will do exclusive limited runs on products with supermarkets." Future also does promotional retail activity in addition to covermounting. Recent examples include an exclusive promotion with Power magazine through WHS and an exclusive promotion with Tesco on PlayStation Max. The company also has third party promotions planned with supermarkets this year. An additional strategy for Future is advertising in the national press, outdoor poster campaigns and radio ­ all of which it has done in the past six months. For the launch of Official PlayStation 2, for example, the company had an outdoor poster campaign with poster sites booked specifically outside shops selling magazines. As part of the its restructure, Future has appointed Seymour as its distributor from April 9. Mike Frey, managing director at Future, explains: "It became increasingly obvious to us that a publisher who distributed its own magazines and subsequently had a disproportionately small market share would be in a weaker position as the distribution market continued to evolve. We decided that Seymour would represent our portfolio most effectively." While Sony's PlayStation accounts for much of the gaming market, retailers should keep an eye on other consoles too. Despite Dennis' Official Dreamcast Magazine bucking the trend and climbing slightly in the last ABC audit, the life of Dreamcast titles seems limited after Sega's decision to cease the manufacture of Dreamcast consoles at the end of March. Future has already pulled its DC-UK title, while Dennis and Paragon say they will continue for now. However, there are plenty of console launches to compensate. At the end of June, Nintendo will launch GameBoy Advance and Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's X-Box console launches are scheduled for early next year. Paragon's 64 Magazine has extended its coverage from Nintendo 64 to GameBoy Colour and the anticipated GameBoy Advance and GameCube consoles, and retailers can expect to see similar extensions of editorial coverage from other magazines. Of course, new magazines will also be launched. Paragon's Petley says: "If you consider that eight magazines were launched around Sony PlayStation2, you can see the impact that consoles such as X-Box will have on the market." Indeed, both Future and Computec say they will launch X-Box magazines, while Paragon says it will support all major console launches. Future's Roberts adds: "We have six good ideas in the games market and we are working on them." Official PlayStation Magazine £4.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 200,871 Official PlayStation2 £4.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 81,247 Play £2.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 65,386 Nintendo Official Magazine £2.95 M Frontline Latest news stand ABC 65,343 PlayStation World £2.99 M MarketForce Latest news stand ABC 62,531 Official Dreamcast Magazine £4.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 47,081 PowerStation £3.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 41,408 PlayStation Max £1.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 36,022 PSM2 £3.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 51,647 64 Magazine £3.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 14,220 Dreamcast Magazine £2.99 M Seymour Latest news stand ABC 22,842 PlayStation Power Magazine £2.99 M Seymour latest news stand ABC 47,854 {{CTN }}