The Science of Strategy Guides «

As gaming grows annually, and draws into its fold new gamers, new fans, and new people hungry for knowledge, so too does the need for things like FAQs, cheat sites, video strategy sites, and community message boards. And although many gamers turn to the Internet for all their strategy-specific needs, there is still a large audience who craves the sturdy feel of the time-tested tome known simply as the printed ‘strategy guide.’ Like a bible for a gamer deeply invested in his gaming experience, sometimes nothing less will do than a thick volume filled with lavish artwork, bound in a hardcover, with an entire game’s secrets at your fingertips. Often, people just don’t want to have to sit in front of a computer, checking item recipes, locations, boss tactics, or map layouts. Gamers may want to reference the guide while on the bus, or during lunch, when a PC isn’t handy.

While the printed guide isn’t going away any time soon, the industry has had to make adjustments. Instead of receding in the wake of the Internet’s dominance, most strategy guide makers –Prima and Brady being the behemoths of the industry– have actually increased the quality of their guides, frequently offering regular softcover versions as well as ‘limited edition’ hardcover guides, containing premium maps, interviews, artwork and other incentives to get gamers to part with an extra $20-40 per guide. But there is a lesser-known entity quietly producing some of the highest quality guides in the English-speaking market. Their name is Future Press, which was founded in 1998, and is based in Hamburg, Germany. Staffed by a core team of 15 people, they translate their guides into 5 languages, have racked up a formidable catalogue of 50 guides thus far, of which 7 have been officially published in North America.

Future Press has created guides for inFamous, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Vanquish, Killzone 3, Portal 2, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and most currently, the towering Dark Souls guide that is almost as intimidating as the game itself. Additionally, they have guides for both Soul Calibur V and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning on the way. Notably, their English-language (but not published in North America) Bayonetta guide commands premium dollars by resellers on Amazon. A sign of the guide’s quality? Perhaps. To discover what it is that makes Future Press tick, and how they plan to compete in a tough market that already contains Prima and Brady, and their strategy for finding their own niche in an Internet-dominated era, we spoke with Managing Director, Frank Glaser, and Wil Murray (Senior Editor).

1UP: The North American strategy guide market is an incredibly competitive one, thanks not only to the prominence of established guide publishers like Brady and Prima, but also to the wealth of online guides available on dozens of websites. What made you decide to enter into this market and how did you feel you could distinguish yourselves from the competition. How did you feel you could best make an impact?

Future Press: Well, Future Press was actually established in 1998 and has had plenty of success in Europe for more than a decade prior to entering the US market. The US was indeed an incredibly difficult market to break into, which is why it’s taken us so long. Being a small independent company, building a reputation for making high quality guides with our European releases was an essential step in gaining the support of publishers.

Really, though, we entered the US market because everything about the strategy guide market, be it print guide publishers or online sources, isn’t living up to its potential. We’ve been publishing UK English editions of our guides since the beginning, and in that time have had publishers and developers wishing that our guides had been released in the US and praising them above even the Japanese equivalents. Developers especially want the best guide possible for their game, and are very willing to work closely with us to deliver that. Giving customers a well-designed guide that is filled with expert content can make impact enough we’ve found.


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