A guide to Space Gamer and Better Games
Truly a marathon number of changes have occurred in both editors and publishers. But since Space Gamer predates Dragon magazine (once called the Strategic Review), that could be as expected. Trivia, how many of you know TSR originally stood for "Tactical Study Rules," once a wargame company. And as wargame companies were swallowed by role-play companies were consumed by card game companies, were bought by toy companies...change is the only constant in the adventure game industry.
Wow, where to start. I'm trying to avoid gossip, and I don't wish to malign anyone. That said, Space Gamer has a curse, where it tends to change owners right as a company goes under. Steve Jackson is a notable exception, but I don't have the story on why he sold Space Gamer. Maybe the price was just too good to pass. Not being a journalist, if someone wishes to write Steve's side of Space Gamer, pass me a copy. Besides "Mr. Jackson," I will avoid last names of people who owned the magazine trademark, but were not truly publishing companies.
Space Gamer magazine was originally published by Metagaming in the late seventies. Metagaming created a number of small packaged games like Ogre and Melee. The rights to these titles passed back to Steve Jackson when Metagaming shut down. Steve Jackson also received the trademarks to Space Gamer and published the magazines for many years. He has the true legacy in number of issues, and his are the ones you most find collected and sold on Ebay. Steve Jackson Games (SJG) also added Fantasy Gamer to the release titles, first as a separate entity, then as a combined magazine.
SJG sold the trademarks to Space Gamer and Fantasy Gamer to World Wide War (3W), a company which for a brief time tried to ascend to the top of the adventure gaming hill. They also purchased Strategy and Tactics. SPI's former owner James Dunnigan even returned as the editor. Alas, WWW also went down like Metagaming, and Space Gamer ended up in the hands of Future Combat Simulations
After publishing just one issue, FCS could not continue. Better Games had pre-paid for six full-page ads and was in danger of losing our advanced payment. Space Gamer almost passed to us at that time. Better Games became unwittingly a major creditor of FCS. They crashed and spent our check, and asked if we'd like to use it as a deposit for owning Space Gamer. The negotiations ended dead-locked on extra fees on the purchase price. The magazine had very little remaining goodwill, and no subscriber base left after several years between issues. Better Games was also not ready to publish a magazine.
Another year would pass. FCS declared bankruptcy, but not before selling the magazine to a Southern California game store manager named Bill. Bill acquired none of the debt of Space Gamer (which amounted to my prepaid ads and some lifetime memberships). Lesson to both, do not pay in advance for ads and never buy a lifetime subscription. I think S&T had them too. Anyone know if they were honored? I don't think so; I think TSR took S&T clear. But back to Space Gamer.
Bill never got around to publishing, before his store went out of business. He wanted advertisers to write all his articles. Would have been no bias in those reviews, huh? Still the trademark moved again, and ended up controlled by Scott, a broker who worked at a major game distributor. Scott never published nor did he intend to publish. He picked up Space Gamer for a small amount and sold it to Better Games for a larger amount. At the time Better Games was not the only suitor. And we still get offers from people who want to buy the trademark of Space Gamer.
The trademark has value. That's how we got involved. While Better Games was expanding, we bought the trademarks to Space Gamer and Fantasy Gamer to help us reach a larger audience for our games. I pictured a format like S&T, where each magazine contained a game. We published our eight issues and numbered them from issue one. The gap between Steve Jackson's numbering and ours was so wide, we felt unable to continue. In truth, we didn't even have a good idea where the magazine was at in total number. We debated trying to announce a new 100th issue, but decided instead to start over at volume two, issue one, Battle Born. Currently new issues of Space Gamer will not be published in paper form.
This website is the evolution of our forum for ideas, and now we have the true ability to offer a referee-free game for those who do not have the time to run a campaign of their own.