It all started to crumble in the mid-to-late 1990s, when ordinary households first started getting Internet access in large numbers. Once one person had a cheat code, he could put it on the Web—on a site like Cheat Code Central, which started in 1997—for the entire world to see. Free fan-made walkthroughs began to crop up as well, and they didn't raise the legal concerns that unofficial guide books did.
All of this changed the industry. Sites like CheatCC leveled the playing field between the game makers and we the players. Because they were so easy to share, cheat codes more or less went out of existence—modern games with cheats usually make you unlock them, rather than punch a ridiculous series of buttons. Even fighting games got with the program, providing a full list of moves in the pause menu.
Of course, this meant that subscriptions for video game magazines fell precipitously. Game Informer managed to survive due to its ties to GameStop's loyalty program, but otherwise, things have not been going well for "dead tree" gaming journalism. Why pay for Nintendo Power when you can read Cheat Code Central for free? Why rely on reviews in any one publication when you can read countless reviews online, and even see them aggregated on Metacritic? Why pay for breathless "previews" when you can see the game's promotional materials for free online and read unbiased previews on third-party sites?
By last week, when I heard that Nintendo Power is entering its final stretch, I hadn't even thought about subscribing to a print gaming magazine in well over a decade. My stack of old Nintendo Power issues was long ago used as a BB gun target. I'll take the Internet era over the Nintendo Power era any day, and I'm proud to be part of a site that helped cause the transition between the two.
Then again, I'll never forget how excited I used to get every time a new issue arrived in the mailbox.
Date: August 29, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central. This week's is also purely a work of fiction*