Official Xbox Magazine, or OXM, is a monthly Xbox 360 gaming magazine. It offers game previews and reviews, the latest gaming news, answers to fan-written gaming questions, and various game-related articles. Every issue comes with a demo disc for the Xbox 360. This sounds like a lot, but is it worth a subscription? After all, quality is often valued over quantity. Let’s take a look at each item individually.
OXM does a pretty good job of keeping readers informed on the newest games. They highlight not only the hyped games that everyone is looking forward to, but also less popular games that they believe deserve attention. Each preview details the game’s publisher and developer, whether it has multiplayer, its release date (if known), and mentions what kinds of fans may enjoy it (for example fans of Call of Duty may enjoy Battlefield: Bad Company). Previews often also contain many captioned game screenshots as well as sidebars with additional game information that may not have fit into the main article. In the past, OXM preview articles have helped me to decide whether or not I want to keep my eye on a game. With Xbox 360 games going for $60 today, I can’t stand to waste any money on games I will not enjoy. Between OXM’s previews and reviews, I find it much easier to decide which games to thrown down cash on.
For the most part, OXM provides quality reviews. They let readers know what a game is about while simultaneously giving their opinion. At the end of each review, they print a clear summary of their review, bulleting good points with a plus (+) and negative points with a minus (-). They also give each game a rating on a 10 point scale (10 being the best). There has always criticism over their rating system. Some readers say they are quick to give high ratings, other readers say they give too many low ratings. Most recently, OXM printed a fan letter that commented on their recent lack of 10’s. I believe they rate pretty appropriately; however, I do have an issue with their reviews. They seem to review some games as “filler”. They review games that no one has heard of and give out a bunch of low ratings. I am not the most in-the-know gamer, but I don’t think I am the only one who doesn’t know a thing about many of the games OXM reviews. I don’t have much of a problem with their reviewing less-popular games. It becomes a problem when all of these games get ratings in the 2 - 6 range. I usually end up skipping over them, which makes me feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth. Nonetheless, I appreciate the quality in OXM’s reviews.
In their Inbox section, OXM covers all of the latest gaming news. It’s generally two pages of game publisher/developer news and announcements. When I first started reading OXM, I used to skim through this section without giving it a real read. The first time I read it, however, I was tempted to go back and see what I’d missed. There are so many things going on in the gaming world that most gamers probably don’t know about. Wondering why a company disbanded? The reason was probably in OXM. Puzzled as to why a game was never released? OXM probably covered it. In addition to news, the Inbox also offers a section called the Crystal Ball. Here, the OXM team makes predictions as to what will be going on in the gaming world the next month. As far as I can tell, they are pretty accurate. I don’t have any significant issues with OXM’s news section. It’s informative and all Xbox gamers should give it a chance.
The OXM team prints and answers fan mail in their Message Center section. For the most part they only print questions and comments whose responses would interest the majority of their fan base. Every once in a while, however, OXM will print a question that could probably be answered through an email. For example, most Xbox gamers probably know the difference between first- and third-person games. While I’m sure some readers would benefit from this information, the majority would probably say to Google the answer so OXM can print some real questions. On the whole, however, the Message Center is very informative and entertaining, making it one of my favorite sections of OXM.
There are a wide variety of articles in OXM. Some are lists (e.g. Top 10 Scariest Games and Most Heroic Game Characters), some are tips and tricks (e.g. Things to Do In [insert game name here] and Things You Didn’t Know About [insert game name here]), some are gaming news (e.g. court cases, game developer news) and others are miscellaneous (e.g. Kinect Do’s and Don’ts and 2010 Gaming Resolutions). I find all of their articles to be entertaining and in some way informative. Unless an issue contains a preview or article that I am particularly looking forward to, the articles are usually my favorite part of OXM.
When I found out that every issue of OXM comes with a demo disc, I was excited to say the least. Each disc contains game demos (usually numbering in the 5 to 7 range) and other Xbox-related content like game trailers and Gamer Pics. The demos are generally of fair length, giving players a good idea of what the game (in its demo build) is like. The big issue with these discs is that after playing Xbox Arcade games, players are thrown from the demo disc and onto their dashboards. This forces you to start up the disc all over again – a very annoying task. The OXM has acknowledged this issue, but has not yet fixed it. Due to this, I generally avoid playing arcade demos until I have finished all the non-arcade demos. If you are willing to look past this annoyance, the OXM demo discs are well worth your time and money.
One other problem worth mentioning is that issues of OXM sometimes come with a game ad stuck onto the front of them. The ad itself is not a problem. Multiple times I have tried to very carefully remove these ads and still managed to tear the front cover of the magazine. This is very disappointing as I enjoy keeping my magazines in very good condition as a type of collector’s item.
Despite its faults, Official Xbox Magazine is a good investment for Xbox 360 gamers. The initial newsstand price for OXM is $10.00. After that, the prices for subscriptions seem to vary a bit. Amazon offers a year subscription for around $24.95 ($2.08 per issue). Subscription renewals are always discounted. The offer for the February 2011 issue (I am a bit behind on reading them) is $1.87 per issue for 2 years. It is sometimes difficult to judge when you should renew since the offers vary from issue to issue, but you will almost always find a discount.
Official Xbox Magazine is definitely the official Xbox magazine.