Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Murphy about his gaming history and work in the industry! For those unaware, Paul Murphy is the mastermind behind several print gaming publications including Switch Player Magazine and the upcoming Ninty Fresh. Please enjoy our unabridged conversation.
You have a long lineage working for publications and starting many of your own. From Xbox 360 to PS Vita to Nintendo Switch, you’ve worked in every console ecosystem – but with Ninty Fresh you’ll be on a Nintendo streak. What draws you to Nintendo’s games above others?
Growing up in the UK you were typically either SEGA or Nintendo, and it was a famous rivalry echoed through the print publications of the time. We didn’t have much money, so having both was never an option. We already had a Game Boy, but my parents got me SNES in 1992 and the rest, as they say, is history. Famed for being innovative but notable for having rich, engaging and fun games, I’ve always had a fondness for Nintendo and their games.
Can you isolate the moment you fell in love with Nintendo?
Super Mario World. From the moment I played it, I thought it was incredible. I have to say even though we didn’t have many games, the Game Boy defined and locked in my love of handheld gaming, which of course Nintendo is probably more notable and famous for. I’m the person that actually prefers to play the Switch undocked! But in the 1990s there were so many games that continued to keep me hooked to Nintendo, and that’s before we even mention Pokémon…
Out of your love for the company has come a career. Have your feelings toward Nintendo and gaming as a whole shifted since becoming involved in the industry in a deeper way?
Haha, I wouldn’t say it’s a career! It’s essentially a full-time job in itself, as you folks will know yourselves but I do this in my free time around being a parent, a foster parent and working in a school. That school downtime has helped me free up some time for Ninty Fresh, though. Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy a game because you are being critical or over-analytical with the experience and you have to remind yourself why you are playing – to have fun. To escape.
You’ve worked in print for some time now, with Switch Player Magazine and now Ninty Fresh. What draws you to covering games in this way, even in the digital age? What affordances are you granted by print journalism that digital content lacks?
Growing up, there was no internet. I know, it’s mental! We garnered all of our information from the glossy pages of people we came to admire. Then the internet came along with its internet-ness, which is amazing and everything, but how many times have you forgotten about a game? Or a review? I feel there is something special about having a physical, tangible product in your hands that allows for a greater degree of escape and immersion than a computer screen ever can.
Now that you’re in the home stretch of launching Ninty Fresh, can you talk a bit about both the nerves and excitement associated with an endeavor of this scope, and the realities of making it happen?
There’s always the worry that what you are providing isn’t actually wanted. As I launched the Kickstarter on the 1st June, I was so anxious and nervous. Within three hours of course, my concern over whether it was wanted had abated. Only to be replaced with a new one – we have to make sure that what we produce will actually meet the expectations of those that have generously supported us and put their faith into us. We aren’t going to be ONM – we couldn’t even get close – but we want to make a homage that’s as close to it and as revered as we can. That’s a lot of pressure. If this was our first rodeo, I’d be far more concerned, but we have been doing this for six years now, and I have the most amazing team of people.
What lessons have you taken with you from various projects such as Vita Lounge and Switch Player, and how will you apply them to Ninty Fresh?
We listen. And observe changes. You cannot make a single product that will appeal to everyone, but you need to make something that appeals to most. We could not have tried to make something of this size and scope having not learned the lessons from our previous ventures. You are always learning, and every step you make has to be to make a better process, and you need to seek to continually evolve. Don’t ever settle for what you have and always strive to be better. There’s probably a life-lesson in there as well.
I’m sure that this project has been on your mind for a while. Why did you decide to launch Ninty Fresh now?
It felt [like] the right time. Switch Player has been growing phenomenally, with 25% growth year-on-year, but the model we locked in at the start is now hampering us. It’s a fantastic method of delivering Switch content and not only is it not going anywhere, we are able to go from strength to strength with it. However, that diminutive size and Switch-only focus closes off so much Nintendo history. With 14 core platforms plus the other iterations and a plethora of games, there are so many that haven’t experienced Nintendo’s extensive history. With Super Mario turning 35, it felt right to try. We’d experimented behind the scenes with a SPM spin-off, or a Nintendo annual and it all came around to this. It felt right.
I think what engages me most about about Ninty Fresh is the retro and long-form feature content. What compelled you to pivot the magazine away from just focusing on what’s new in the world of Nintendo?
In this world of covering games, you need to be better the everyone else, or you need to be different. That’s how you stand apart. It’s not for me to say whether we are “better”, but we are different. As far as we know, SPM is the only crowd-funded, dedicated, print Nintendo Magazine in the world. That’s quite unique. Also, being brash enough to launch a second magazine, it needs to be substantially different to encourage readers to pick it up. We’ve already been asked why it’s different to SPM, and that long-form feature focus and retro content is the difference.
When we launched SPM off the back of Vitamag, we didn’t know how successful the Switch would be. Given the Vita and Wii U’s relative underperformance, we didn’t anticipate the thing to sell gangbusters or to amass a library of nearly 4000 games – how could we have? The model and structure for SPM is locked. This gives us the platform to address that.
The Ninty Fresh Kickstarter is already off to a booming start. What do you think that you tapped into with magazine that is making it resonate so much?
Nostalgia. One of the most iconic things about Nintendo is the diverse history of games, many of which remain fantastic and playable today. There’s also a rich and diverse history of Nintendo in print which has been sorely missed. Over in the USA, Nintendo Power was lost in 2012, whereas here ONM closed in 2014. Fan publications have tried to pick up the mantle, including our own, we think we can do it differently. Our experience with this sort of thing is probably helping as well!
Even though I’m only 19, I still grew up with gaming magazines – particularly Nintendo Power. Many my age and younger don’t have any experience with – and as such, no appreciation for – print coverage. What would you say to illustrate the importance of Ninty Fresh to younger players who don’t have any personal attachment to print?
Once upon a time we only got our gaming information on dead trees*. Ninty Fresh will give you that Nintendo goodness without needing to plug it in or charge it. It’ll have amazing artwork that you can stick on your wall and come with badges. Everyone love badges! We will do our best to bring you outstanding Nintendo coverage each issue and give some insight and analysis on what made older Nintendo games, franchises and systems so iconic. There’s something unique about reading things in print form that you don’t get from a screen*. Go on, give us a go! We might not make another without your support…
*The dead trees we are using are FSC certified
*You can also get Ninty Fresh for a screen if you prefer.
Thank you to Paul Murphy for his time. Learn more about Ninty Fresh right here ahead of its publication!