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The New Trend With Guide Books January 30, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
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For as long as there have been games, there have been guide books.  In the early Nintendo days, they would be a part of each issue of Nintendo Power.  In 1993, I was seeing trade paperbacks full of tips in my school library for many popular games bundled together.  By 1997, in the golden age of PC CD-ROM gaming, official and unofficial guide books would be posted for all the latest games.  In fact, there were so many of them, a lot of bookstores would have their own little section on the shelves devoted to them.

Guide Books can offer a lot more than what an online cheats site can aside from the fact that you can read them on The John.  Now I will be the first person to admit I’ll just look up an FAQ for a simple answer I need when I’m playing through an older game, but I’ll also admit that a Guide Book has a lot of advantages.  They’re out on day one of a game’s release, well before some of the more in depth FAQs can be written.  They also have more of a visual and artistically appealing look to them then an HTML loaded TXT file.  They are printed on glossy paper with quality inks and will include every secret, code, hint, biography, and storyline explanation a curious gamer requires.

About a year ago I did a piece on the cousin of the Guide Book, the Video Game Art book.  Artwork, developer interviews, and a beautiful (usually hardcover) book to read it out of. And the really nice ones are bound just like coffee table books.  If a gamer was really lucky back in the old days, and the game was big enough, a seperate art book would be released for a game, it happened with Halo 1 and 2, Doom 3, Half-Life 2 and The Force Unleashed.

Here’s a video so you can have a good idea what I’m talking about.

As time progressed, the Guides started to get more elaboriate, and then (as you could see in some of the examples I showed in the video) they started getting bound seprately with the guide book, like for Mass Effect 1 and Alan Wake.

Over the past two years, a new trend has started with these books.  Now, instead of releasing a guide book and art book seperate, they seem to be going for creating a single big book of everything and releasing it at a premium price.  A lot of the newer releases (Halo Reach, Dead Space 2) have some FANTASTIC looking Collector’s Guides that as a game collector and coffee table enthusiast I couldn’t ignore.

Now, the downside of this is that these guides can cost almost twice as much as a regular guide can.  A traditional guide book can cost about $19.99 US, a price that a lot of people believe is far too high.  These new Collector’s Books can cost anywhere from $29.99 to $39.99.  Also, the art portions are integrated with the guides themselves, preventing seperate resale (and making them much bigger on a shelf).

Time will tell what will happen to these monoliths of a physical era in a digital age.  Will they continue to be published, or will the popularity of free information on the Internet finally overcome them?  Until then I’ll still be taking that guide book of this year’s E3, thank you very much.