“It seems that Die-Hard Gamer was that magazine that everybody heard about, but for one reason or another, never had the chance to read.” That’s how former Die-Hard Gamer editor-in-chief John “Hunter” Norman put it in a recent interview I had the pleasure of conducting.
The magazine launched in late 1985, about the same time as the Nintendo Entertainment System was being test marketed in New York. “Without Nintendo, there was no Die-Hard Gamer,” Hunter quipped, “and that goes for much of the industry as we know it now” he said with a smirk. Yet for a magazine that started unabashedly as a shill for Nintendo’s new console, the magazine quickly morphed into something much different.
Die-Hard Gamer was already a trailblazing magazine for recognizing the return of consoles to a devastated North American video game industry long before most, but it is also notable for its wide breadth of coverage. It reviewed computer games, video arcades, pinball, and even anime long before that was a trend. It also reviewed import games which was something almost unheard of in the mid-1980s. “That got us into a lot of trouble with publishers.” said Hunter, “Die-Hard Gamer was always close to collapse due to a lack of advertising and even reviewables; we had to buy much of what we reviewed which was costly. They [publishers] hated that we reviewed their Japanese games early, and even worse, told gamers how to import them.”
That friction with publishers at least in part ensured that Die-Hard Gamer was stuck somewhere between a popular fanzine and an underperforming national magazine. It remained in circulation longer than most video game magazines, but several issues were not even circulated on store shelves without a costly subscription, making the magazine highly sought after today amongst its collectors.
Finding those issues is what eventually led a group of collectors including myself to have a chance meeting with a few of the original Die-Hard Gamer editors including its editor-in-chief. From there we were able to secure uncirculated copies of the magazine, but rather than keeping them locked away, we were given permission to scan them and redistribute them for free here on the diehardgamer.com URL we were also able to secure.
We plan on distributing issues of Die-Hard Gamer here in a chronological order as we’re able to both scan and painstakingly repair them for 30+ years of aging. While they may be uncirculated, unfortunately the issues do show their age at least in part.
We hope that you will enjoy these issues as much as we have!