Sunday, September 23, 2012

White Dwarf Evolution or Revolution?

Inspired by the new format White Dwarf this month, in this post I examine the contents of White Dwarf (WD) through the years.  To do this, I take four WDs:

(1) October 2012 -- i.e. this month's "re-launch" or "re-boot";
(2) August 2010 (WD368) -- representative of both fantasy and 40k since it launched daemons;
(3) June 2007 (WD330) -- the 30th anniversary edition and therefore probably broadly representative;
(4) February 1990 (WD122) -- an old White Dwarf from a different era that may not be totally representative of the era.

I wanted to include earlier ones still, but couldn't locate them, so these will have to suffice for my little experiments to consider how WD has evolved.
Here's the experimental aim: to categorize and find the percentages of the content of each magazine in to several different bins:

(a) Adverts (including not only Citadel, but Marauder, etc., in the case of WD122).
(b) Battle Reports (whether 40k, fantasy, LoTR, or otherwise).
(c) Rules (mostly new rules that don't appear elsewhere ... unless its WD122 which includes what is was re-printed in Realms of Chaos, etc.; I note that WD330 included Blood Angels codex for instance), also scenarios (e.g. new Space Hulk missions).
(d) Painting (by whoever, of whatever, including showcases of armies), and conversions / conversion ideas.
(e) Editorials about miniatures and their abilities, background fluff and details about the Warhammer (and 40k) Universe / flavour text, gaming, design notes, etc. This overlaps somewhat with adverts.  Therefore to distinguish between the two, "Adverts" must show the price of the product, editorials about them don't contain the price.
(f) Contents pages, news, filler, tournament adverts, retailer locations, gaming clubs, general artwork, and other things that I couldn't easily put in to other categories!

The uncertainties on each category should be taken as at least a few per cent, possibly up to 5% -- this isn't a totally scientific experiment!  Let me also declare that there's also plenty of subjectivity involved as well, clearly.  And the new WD is at least 1 cm shorter than the old ones in height (hence less room for text, pictures, etc.).  Here's the results.

1. WD Oct 2012:
N(pages) = 153.
(a): 7%
(b): 11%
(c): 0%
(d): 16%
(e): 50%
(f): 20%

2. WD 368:
N(pages) = 121.
(a): 11%
(b): 18%
(c): 0%
(d): 7%
(e): 45%
(f): 21%

3. WD 330:
N(pages) = 129.
(a): 20%
(b): 9%
(c): 11%
(d): 10%
(e): 37%
(f): 13%

4. WD122:
N(pages) = 81.
(a): 21%
(b): 0%
(c): 58%
(d): 7%
(e): 4%
(f): 14%

So, what has happened over the years?  WD has moved away from presenting plenty of new rules and ideas and, perhaps surprisingly, advert content (as many people proclaim that recent era WDs are mostly adverts).  Instead, they've moved toward blending together their miniatures and fluff using editorials and writing about how cool the miniatures are.  This is supplemented with battle reports and tactica.  Painting articles have also increased in percentage terms.  Seen in this light, the new WD is not so much a revolution, as much a part of a continual evolution wherein we see much more detailed text surrounding the miniatures.  The lack of new rules and scenarios is the clearly demarkation between the old format and the new, and I think ultimately, that is where the new format WD needs to pick up the baton once more if it is to appeal to subscribers again.  Just an opinion.


eriochrome said...

I think you are giving them to much credit on the editorial line. I think they are hiding a lot of advert "look how cool these new models" on those pages.

closet gamer said...

I think it's an impressive change. Bold and striking. Spoke to some of the WD team at GamesDay today and they said they want WD to stay in print in an online world (hence WD on iPad) and this could help it's longevity. I, for one, think they've done an incredible job.

Mike Howell said...

I haven't seen the new format yet, but have heard positive things about it from my local hobby buddies. Like eriochrome, I am hesitant to differentiate between editorial and advertisement in a magazine entirely devoted to a positive portrayal of one company's product. In fact, I don't even know whose ads would be shown if not GW's at this point. If they actually sold ad space and cut the cost of the magazine in half I might even buy is without cringing again.

jabberjabber said...

Hi guys -- I agree that the dividing line between editorials and adverts has got thin. I'd personally like to see a new scenario for fanstasy / 40k presented once in a while, a new rule for some abstratc scenery piece (perhaps alternate rules for "mysterious" blah's) and similar.

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