PlayStation Power (1996-2001)
After I started to buy the Official UK PlayStation Magazine at the end of 1998, I started to think about whether I should also buy an unofficial magazine as there were several of them as the marketplace was much more crowded at the time. In early-1999 I was having a look on the shelf in the supermarket and I made to decision to start buying PlayStation Power, partly because that issue came with the free gift of a CD featuring some music from the game Rollcage which I do like. By this time PlayStation Power was the biggest unofficial computer games magazine in Britain, with sales not far short of 100,000. They were also another PlayStation magazine that knew that Lara Croft on the cover = sales. It was also £2.50 at the time, half the price of the official magazine, what a bargain! PlayStation Power was a monthly magazine published by Future which launched in 1996. After I had a look through what else was inside I was very impressed and started to buy the magazine regularly. When I first encountered the writers I did wonder “who are these people?”, but I did quickly become a big fan of their writing styles and their humour and enthusiasm for PlayStation gaming clearly came through. What a bunch of guys. I believe they also contributed to a computer games show on ITV called Gamers, only it wasn’t ever shown in my region.
Over the issues PlayStation Power would go on to give away various free gifts including stickers, cheat books, and even a VHS which featured the best games that were around at the moment. There was also a resident “babe” as they said in the late-90s who would appear in various pages of the magazine. It was Rachel Grant who was also an actress and appeared in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies.
PlayStation Power‘s review system used percentages. They particularly had it in for a game called Hugo, which was a conversion of an interactive feature on CITV Saturday Morning show What’s Up Doc about five years earlier where viewers had to press the buttons on their touchtone phone to play the game. PlayStation Power gave Hugo their lowest review score of 1% and said it was dreadful. The game caused a lot of debate on the letters page, but people sarcastically (probably) saying “Why don’t you like Hugo, it should’ve got 99%, it’s better than Metal Gear Solid” every month did get tiresome after a while.
There were also many enjoyable features in the magazine including interviewing celebrities and asking them what their favourite PlayStation games are, “The State Of The ‘Station” where the writers gathered round to discuss the latest news of what was happening to Sony’s console in a lively style, and other things including how to fix your PlayStation (“Don’t poke your kebab-stained mitts at the lens, you muppet.”). I also remember in one issue they tested mail order companies by ordering a copy of Driver to determine who had the best deal, only one of them never answered the phone. Their conclusion: “Mail order? Male odour, more like!”.
One of the features that I liked was the A-Z, providing lots of information on every game that PlayStation Power had reviewed which helped me to decide what games I would be interested in and like to buy. Any game that had a rating of over 90% was declared a “Stunna”, but I also enjoyed reading the reviews of terrible low-scoring games, with one stinker being simply summed up as “ugly and pointless, like Les Dennis”.
All of this carried on for a while but at the start of 2000 for the 50th issue there was a huge relaunch because it was “the new millennium”. The title was shortened to just Power, it now became more focused on the imminent PlayStation 2. There would also be more pages and the reviews system was now changed to scores out of ten. There were also some new features including a column written by Emily Newton-Dunn of Channel 4’s Bits fame.
This was how the magazine stayed for a while, but sales then seemed to drift. In mid-2001 after five years the decision was made to merge Power with PlayStation Max which had launched in 1999 and was aimed at younger readers. The editor at this point was Ryan Butt who was also in charge of the official magazine when that closed in 2004. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to track down any information of how long this version of the magazine lasted, as I stopped reading at Power‘s 69th and final issue. PlayStation Power at its peak was a very enjoyable gaming magazine and I am surprised to discover that it there is very little about it online and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry. I hope this piece goes some way to giving the magazine and its team some of the appraisal and recognition that I think it deserves.