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© 1997-2006
Gareth Knight
All Rights reserved

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First issue release date: October 1989 Final issue release date: December 1996
Publisher: Europress and IDG Media Coverage: Games magazine
Country published: United Kingdom No. of issues: 89
Medium: Paper Status: Dead
Web Address:
Bootleg Amiga Action

 


1989 - 1991: First Wave
As the longest running Amiga games magazine, Amiga Action has a special place in Amiga folklore. Launched just a few months after Amiga Format the magazine pre-emptied the Amiga boom of the early 1990's showing that the Amiga was more than a platform for ST-ports.
In the early days Amiga Action symbolized a cut above the rest, appealing to an uncharted market. The first issue, dated October 1989, was a 92 page glossy magazine aimed at the game player who used the Amiga as an entertainment machine. This was a sharp contrast to existing titles that perceived Amiga gaming as little more than a distraction from more serious past times. Amiga Action became one of the first magazines in the industry to define game playing as a social occasion to be enjoyed alone or with friends. This attitude was reflected in the review layout that were non-linear in design. The primary focus was placed upon a basic description of the game, with additional comments on the gameplay itself scattered around the page. The layout was perfectly suited to the game player, allowing the reader to quickly grasp the game concept and if it was worth buying. Unusually for the time, reviews were printed in full colour and included the commentary of two reviewers. The rating system also followed this simple layout, dividing into graphics, sound, and an overall percentage. It was evident that games were rated mainly on their aesthetic qualities rather than game playability.
The Boggit
In addition to the game reviews the magazine placed great emphasis upon features and regular columns. The first issue included a joystick round-up and a monthly game tips section titled 'Points of Grue' that, rather unusually, included game pokes. This was replaced in issue 3 by the more familiar 'Boggits Domain'. For the readers who never 'experienced' the Boggit, it was a fictional troll became infamous for making jokes at the expense of the Atari ST. It remained one of the most popular sections of the magazine on this basis.

Amiga Action No. 1 Amiga Action No. 2 Amiga Action No. 3 Amiga Action No. 4 Amiga Action No. 5

During the next two years the magazine grew in parallel to the Amiga market, rising to a whopping 164 pages in the December 1990 issue. The Amiga games boom had arrived bringing a new generation of gamers. To cater for this market, the magazine introduced an irregular coverdisk in issue 13 (October 1990), to compete against their coverdisk-enhanced rivals. Response to this was favourable, selling 6,000 more issues than previous, resulting in it becoming a regular feature in January 1991 (AA16). The year (1991) became a time of upheaval for the Amiga Action staff. The February 1991 issue marked the departure of editor Steve White, and the promotion of Steve White in the April edition (AA19). Paul McIntyre became assistant art editor and Peter Lee took the place of Alex Simon (who had moved to the recently launched Games-X).
 

Super League
The Super League became a regular feature that would extend over the magazine' life. At first it began as a two page feature covering Adventure, Arcade Adventure, Arcade Strategy, Strategy, Beat 'em up, Shoot 'em up, Flight simulators, Role playing, Platform, Puzzle & quiz, Bat 'N' Ball. Land & Sea simulators, and Racing & sport simulators.
Entry into the league table was based upon a complex mix of overall percentage and age of the game, older title became
devalued over time. 

These changes were followed by the magazines' first new look in the February 1991 (AA17) edition. The cover design was more professional, replacing the cartoon imagery of previous issues. The layout became cleaner with greater use of columns and colour to define different sections. The general magazine theme followed American football, with high-rating games received the 'Super League Accolade'. This was restricted to games that left a mark on the software industry and would act as a yardstick for years to come. The game would also be entered into the games Super League table. However, its frequent use devalued the award over time. The scattered rating system was replaced with a traditional 'Action Info' box. This gave basic information on a game-title, publisher, price, and programmer. The graphics and sound rating were also reeling into the rating box. At this point Amiga Action was at its peak, with a circulation figure of 58,404 (ABC July-Dec 1991). This meant it sold more copies than any other Amiga games magazine, beating its nearest rival, Amiga Power, by over 3,000. However, competitors were beginning to amass and would begin to challenge the magazine's control of the market. The gloss was about to fade..

Amiga Action No. 13 Amiga Action No. 16 Amiga Action No. 17 Amiga Action No. 18 Amiga Action No.19 Amiga Action No. 24

1992 - 1993: The Gloss Begins to Fade
For those who can remember it, 1992 was a time of hope - the European Union was taking centre stage and the UK economy was beginning to recover from recession. However, for Amiga Action the year was associated with a gradual slip in standards. Criticism was leveled, in particular, at the reviews - these were were purely descriptive with little effort to evaluate the title. The Super League was also coming under increasing attack from readers who did not understand the system. These events came at a time when the magazine's market share was being attacked from all sides. The recently launched Amiga Power and The One for Amiga Games had begun to challenge the established order and had begun to claim a sizable portion of the market. It was clear that the magazine had to change in order to survive.
These events unleashed a series of changes , beginning with an improved design & layout in the April 1992 (AA31) issue. This simplified magazine navigation and gave more room for the review itself. The rating system was changed, abandoning the graphics and sound scores, to concentrate on a single overall rating. Regular sections were being given a spring clean, redesigning the letters page and morphing the 'Project Inspection' preview section into the more familiar 'Blue Print'. To pacify readers, the Super League table was also dropped in favour of the 'Action Guide'. This was an 8 page regular that provided a brief description and screenshot of the game. Finally, the magazine became spine-bound and stretched the mast head to fill the cover (September - October 1992).
Despite the many changes, readership continued to fall. The promotion of Alan Bunker to editor resulted in the magazine undergoing another new look in the February 1993 (AA41) issue. The Public Domain section was given a much needed revamp and the rating system completely overhauled to give the complete 'low down' on the game. The graphics and sound ratings returned, and were joined by the addition of a score evaluating playability and difficulty, The team also re-awoke to the need for a second opinion in game reviews to give a balanced rating. This would be followed by the addition of a third opinion in 1994. However, some things remained the same, the Boggit continued to turn Atari ST jokes into an art form, encouraging readers to write 'amusing' poems on the subject. Rivalry between the two machines would remain heated until the death of the ST market in 1994.

Amiga Action No. 26 Amiga Action No. 33 Amiga Action No. 34 Amiga Action No.37 Amiga Action No.42 Amiga Action No.45 Amiga Action No.47

1993 - 1996: The Roudell Years
The Bunker editorship lasted just a few months, announcing his departure, along with deputy editor Nick Merritt, in the September 1993 issue. The gap was quickly filled by Paul Roundell and Steve McNally, who took the respective roles of editor and deputy editor. The Roundell period bought a sense of stability to the magazine, gradually moving away from the childish image to aim for a more mature reader. However, while circulation figures had stabilized, the magazine would never regain the number one position that it had previously held. The magazine was still plagued by numerous problems and new mistakes were being made that would gradually alienate the reader.
Roundell's first issue in command saw the return of the Super League. This represented a philosophical return to the magazine's roots and what had made it great. However, there had been little effort to understand why the feature had been canceled in the first place, leading to repeated criticism from readers. Even the writers quickly became tired of the column, and no one was entirely sure how the league status actually worked. In addition, the column's American football metaphor had began to look increasingly out of place. The editor later commented that he regretted bringing the column back. This mistake was followed by the introduction of 'Over the Edge', written by Brad Burton. This was a brief attempt to change Amiga Action into a lifestyle magazine, covering sports and a range of non-computer subjects. The section was universally criticized and was canceled after the June 1994 (AA55) edition.

Amiga Action No.50 Amiga Action No.58 Amiga Action No.65 Amiga Action No.69 Amiga Action No.73 Amiga Action No.78 Amiga Action No.83

The Commodore liquidation in April 1994 struck deeply at the magazine. It is likely that Amiga Action would have continued to evolve to a new state if the event had not occurred. However, the growing uncertainty in the market had a dramatic effect upon the magazine, causing its writers to give up hope. Rather than evolving the magazine to better reflect the shrinking market, the writing became sloppy and the page count began to drop. In the absence of Amiga news, the childish humour that had plagued the magazine began to take over. The repeated in-jokes and childish cover banners quickly became an annoyance and further degraded opinion of the magazine. The January 1996 (AA78) edition highlighted this, announcing a 'special no sarcasm issue'. The tendency further degraded the Amiga market fulfilling the stereotype that the Amiga was a child's game machine. The magazines' only attraction during this period was the coverdisk, that provided a regular stream of PD games and demos. The magazine regularly increased to three cover disks, and on the Christmas 1995 edition even beat that, with a cover-buckling four disks.

During 1995 the magazine further courted controversy by reviewing incomplete and PC versions of many games, a fact that Amiga Power used to its advantages. It was clear that many writers had began to view the Amiga market as a sinking ship and were eager to dessert the vessel. This resulted in a continued loss of pages and a rise in price during its final year, becoming a mere shadow of its former self. Ironically, the magazine became number one again, out-living its popular competitor, Amiga Power by two months, becoming the last of the Commodore-Amiga game magazines. The December 1996 edition, its 89th and final issue as an independent publication, consisted of just 36 pages and retailed for 4.50UKP.

The closure of Amiga Action was not the end of the story. As was common practice by many Europress/IDG magazines, the dying title was incorporated into another. This had already happened a few years previous with the incorporation of ST Action into Atari ST User. It was therefore unsurprising that Amiga Action was incorporated into sister-title Amiga Computing. The new incorporated version retained the basic Amiga Action design but little of the writing style that had made it popular. The arrangement continued for another ten issues during which the market and the AA section continued to shrink. In September 1997 the final issue of Amiga Computing went on sale, featuring the even leaner looking Amiga Action games section. Ironically it was the 99th edition of Amiga Action, a fact that was commemorated by its death.
Amiga Action No.89 Amiga Action incorporated into Amiga Computing Amiga Action No.99

Subjectively, Amiga Action had never been the best Amiga games magazine, but in its youth it had been a pioneer and a trendsetter to the Amigas uncharted games market. By 1994 it had evolved into a balanced title that had a loyal following of die-hard gamers. However, the untimely death of Commodore led to growing uncertainty in the market. The games developers were the first to go, along with the game players whom were the magazines' core readership. The loss of its parent sounded a death knell and the writers lost all hope of the Amiga ever regaining its former glory.

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