Probably the most in-depth game ever made about local interest magazines, Magazine Mogul is the latest simulation game from Japanese developers Kairosoft. Over the course of 20 years, you and your magazine staff work to expand your town magazine, which has a dramatic effect on the town itself. In addition to measuring your success by your profits, you’re tasked with earning the Grand Prize at the Town Magazine Awards. It’s a hilarious game with a lot of depth and strategy, but be ready to micromanage as you try and keep your magazine in the black.
Magazine Mogul is hilarious. It’s full of the type of Japanese humor that was in vogue on the PS1 and doesn’t come stateside nearly as often anymore. This is not Kairosoft’s first simulated rodeo, and the personality and absurdity that they bring to the game is easily its best feature. This is a game in which you can send your team of reporters into the park, they’ll find a question mark, and upon investigating will discover that it’s an old lady and they now have the ability to write stories about ghosts. The closest analogue to the game that’s not developed by Kairosoft, because they have legions of similar games, most notably 2010’s Game Dev Story, is probably Animal Crossing except with menus instead of walking around.
Magazine Mogul is absurd but that doesn’t mean it’s lightweight. Upon starting the game, you’re directed to a 32 page tutorial that starts to give you an idea about how the magazine is going to work. Then you find yourself balancing advertisers, controlling your target audience, and trying to turn a profit while expanding your staff, upgrading your office, and pouring resources into new stories. It’s to Kairosoft’s credit that there’s so much to deal with at any given time. Those who take to the life of a magazine mogul will find replay value to spare.
Magazine Mogul does a lot right, but be warned that you will be asked to run the day-to-day operations of a town magazine. Unlike Kairosoft’s previous games like Game Dev Story and Ninja Village, the job of running a town magazine leaves you less room to use your imagination. You publish stories on things like gardening and dancing, but when your magazine hits the stands, you see the ad revenue you earned, your ranking, and the number of subscriptions you picked up among various demographics. In other words, there’s a greater focus on numbers that can be alienating and even stressful if you’re not hooked by the game’s aesthetics. Certain types of people, especially fans of previous Kairosoft games, will probably getting hooked from issue one, but if you have any reservations about playing a magazine simulator, know that that’s basically the game.
In a world in which “quirky” and “charming” aesthetics are so often lazily thrown onto games on the way out the door, Kairosoft deserves praise for having a real personality and a real sense of humor. Magazine Mogul is unique, well-done, and accomplishes exactly what it sets out to accomplish with no concessions made to an imagined casual audience. It’s great to play a game with that kind of vision behind it, and hopefully Kairosoft will eventually go on to simulate every industry in an absurd alternate universe where everything is kind of like a comedy RPG. As long as you can handle the serious business end of Magazine Mogul, you’ll have a lot of fun with it and find it to be one of the more in-depth mobile simulation games out there.!
Kairosoft’s newest simulation game is a little more abstract and number-based than usual, but is a commendable success on its own eccentric terms.