Texture vs. Magzter

A few months ago I wrote in jest that magazines are dead. They were sorta getting like that for me at least — with my digital-first lifestyle and reading habit, I was getting more and more frustrated by what was being offered in terms of proper iPad-formatted magazine editions.

And then I gave in.

Many a time have I bemoaned the PDF-like formatted magazines being offered by publishers — meaning, just taking your print edition and releasing it as is for iPad, which means constantly having to zoom in and out of pages to read the text. But the thing is, I really like reading magazines, and while it still wasn’t enough to make me want to seek out print editions (I buy one print magazine monthly, and that’s Monocle), I did decide to bite the bullet and test out a couple of “all-you-can-eat” digital magazine services — luckily, both services offer a free 1 month trial, so there’s nothing to lose in trying them out.

I’d seen Texture mentioned a few times, and the app looked slick, so I started with that. What’s great with Texture, is that although most of the titles on offer are PDF-like, the ones that do have proper iPad-formatted editions are actually included this — which is the case for a lot (if not all) of Conde Nast titles, like Wired and The New Yorker. The selection on offer is comprised of the majority of big titles out there. At $15 a month (for a subscription that not only gives you access to all titles, but also to all archives of each title) it seemed like it would be the more expensive option.

Magzter is the better known service — I’d heard it mentioned by a few people — and includes quite a lot more titles. That expanded inventory is a bit moot though, as the majority is made up of pretty much anything under the sun, and mostly international offerings that I have no interest in. But the worst thing here is that after I signed up for the free month (for the service that is $10 a month I think), I quickly realized that it doesn’t include access to most of the titles I’d want to read (and individual title subscriptions are not cheap). The one magazine that was part of that price tier — and also isn’t present in Texture — is gaming magazine Edge, which I used to read religiously but stopped when they turned their digital edition into the PDF-like model. What I did end up doing during that month was voraciously read through most of the issues I had missed (in the past year) before my free trial was up. I ended up falling in love with that magazine again —  with the intense reading getting me to a point where I guess I just accepted that zooming in/out is part of the process of reading these days, que sera sera — and so eventually subscribed again using Edge‘s standalone app.

The main result of this intense month of trial of these two services (back in August/September) was that, well, I fell in love again with reading a great number of titles, and so at the end I decided to keep my subscription to Texture, and I’ve been gorging myself on titles ever since — and since this is buffet-serving, I don’t feel bad about going through some titles in mostly browse mode, just reading bits here and there.

I’d still like to include more indie offerings to my diet — which would be in print, and tends to bust the wallet more — but I’m at least happy to find myself in a magazine reading mode that I haven’t found myself in for years (not since I ran The Magaziner, a website I used to share my musings about magazines).

On Magazines

I was reading the latest issue of Wired this morning, and with the mention that the title is starting to gear up for its 25th anniversary (in 2018), and with Monocle just last month celebrating its 10th anniversary, it made me realize how loyal I tend to be to magazines I really like.

Not only are these magazines part of my very small pile of regular reads — along with Entertainment Weekly, which celebrated its 25th anniversary a couple of years ago — the other thing that these three titles share is that I’ve been reading all of them since the very first issue. For all of them, there have been very short periods where I may have fallen off for a few issues — mostly because of big changes in my life, like moving to Asia (China, and then Japan) — but it’s still interesting to see how loyal I’ve stayed to these titles.

I say that these are the only three titles I regularly read, and that’s not to say I don’t read any other magazines — I love a lot of indie titles, I still listen religiously to Monocle‘s The Stack podcast about magazine publishing, and would like to be reading titles like Edge and Time regularly, but for the former I can’t find print copies in Montreal and dislike the PDF-like digital edition, and for the latter I don’t want to buy the print edition and also dislike the PDF-like digital edition. In fact, I do most of my magazine reading digitally (I’ve been reading Wired and Entertainment Weekly digitally ever since they launched their iPad editions), and so there’s only Monocle that I read in print — sure, it’s because they don’t offer an iPad-edition, but to be honest, it’s also a beautifully produced paper product that I love holding in my hands.

There’s not real point to this post other than to say, shit, I’ve been reading these magazines for quite a while now.

Let’s Play TV Games

This past Friday I got the new Apple TV, and the day after the Nimbus controller that wirelessly syncs with it (over Bluetooth). I’m having a blast.

I’ll start by saying that I’m a longtime and very strong user of Apple TV. It’s now turned into a pretty successful product for Apple, but I was an early adopter, and it quickly became indispensable for me. The killer feature for me has always been AirPlay, and on top of streaming lots of video content to it, it’s also been my main “stereo” in my home (first by streaming music from iTunes, then Spotify, and these days Apple Music).

But I’ve always been waiting for the moment when they would finally add a proper App Store to it, so that we’d start getting proper apps that were made for use on a TV screen.

And that of course means, TV games.

The best thing about plugging it in and logging into my accounts (as a citizen of the world, I have Canadian, US, and Japan accounts) was that I already had access to a bunch of games courtesy of the few Universal apps out there that have already jumped on the TV front. Early faves so far include Canabalt, Badland, Edge/Edge Ex, Phoenix HD, Jetpack Joyride, and a game that I’m finally having fun playing for the first time (because I’m playing it with the Nimbus controller), Asphalt 8.

(And to be fair, even though it’s not a game I particularly like playing, Crossy Road does look great on the big screen.)

The game I’m playing the most though is Rayman Adventures, a free-to-play game that plays exactly like a regular Rayman console game when you’re playing with the Nimbus – it’s not like the (albeit excellent) auto-runners that have already come out on iOS. There’s also another free-to-play game that I’ve been enjoying, a hover ship “runner” called Breakneck, although it was crashing for me consistently when I was reaching a certain level today.

As I mentioned at the top, I quickly bought that Nimbus controller – which is a very solid piece of hardware, by the way – because for most of these games, I wasn’t really enjoying playing them with the Siri Remote. But one very big exception, and the only game I’ve bought so far, is Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising, which was specifically designed to play with the Siri Remote, and in fact does not support play with a controller. I found myself really enjoying playing that game with the remote, and as someone who was not a fan of playing games with the Wiimote (along with the nunchuck controller), I think what makes it better here is that the Siri Remote is so much smaller and lighter, and so it’s not as tiring to be holding it up. Add some gorgeous HD visuals, and you’ve got a legit great space shooter.

The App Store is a bit strange though. Right now you can only find games through a featured page, through a page of things you’ve bought (and so any Universal apps that you’ve previously purchased on other iOS devices show up there), and through a search page. It’s not surprising that there’s no charts yet, since the store just opened, but I would have liked to see some category pages – I have a few friends who I know have created Apple TV versions of their iOS games (Shaun Inman’s The Last Rocket, Eric Koizol’s Rainblocks) that you can only find if you specifically search for them. I also find it strange that you can’t buy Apple TV apps through App Stores on other devices (or on your computer).

So what’s the verdict?

I think it’s pretty clear that I’m already quite excited for this device, in terms of games, and I think this will finally be the micro console that sticks. Just like what happened with the iPhone, tons of people are going to buy Apple TVs to watch video content (which I of course do as well) and as they start discovering the high-quality games you can play there, it’s going to make it that much more attractive for creators to develop Apple TV versions of their iOS games, or even better, games that may be created specifically with the TV in mind. Also, the fact Apple is strongly promoting the sales of controllers like the Nimbus means that I’m sure more and more games that play better with such controllers will be coming out on the device.

To me, this feels like a new console launch, and a good one at that.

Update: I just realized that I forgot to emphasize another thing that is a huge sell for me – although I alluded to it when I mentioned Asphalt 8 – and that’s the ability to finally play games that use virtual controls on iOS devices with a real physical controller. I absolutely hate playing games that way (with virtual on-screen controls), and there are tons of quality games that I’m sure would be a million times better if I could finally play them with a proper controller – a recent example is Downwell, a game I did still enjoy, but that I still found to be a bit awkward because of the controls. Yes, you’ve long been able to use wireless Bluetooth controllers with iOS devices, but that’s not a practical thing to do. There’s nothing more natural though than using one when you’re playing TV games.