The Internet has grown so fast in the last few years that many cannot help but look at it in financial terms. Surprisingly though, there has been little profitability in web-connected enterprises. Many ISPs are marginal enterprises at best, and web design services must compete with software that allows even people like this reviewer to construct their own sites. There are numerous businesses trying to sell stuff electronically, but even Amazon Books loses money on every item it sells. Attracting advertising to your web site is another way, and indeed, many pages could rival cable television channels for commercial clutter. However, most advertising goes to the portal sites, i.e. those that you see when you activate your browser. Many search engines have added loads of features (e.g. news, sports, links, weather, chat) hoping that you will start there. The portals attract 59% of the web’s advertising revenues while accumulating only 15% of the Internet’s hits, leaving limited advertising revenue for everyone else. Even so, only one or two portals make money every year, although Netscape's site made that company attractive to America Online.
The Holy Grail of Internet business is persuading surfers to pay money to visit your site. This flies against the popular notion that everything on the web should be free, hence you must have something that people really, really want, like dirty pictures. More mainstream enterprises have had mixed results. The Wall Street Journal surprised everyone with its profitable electronic version. Other efforts, like Microsoft’s Slate, have generated little more than comic relief. MagWeb aspires to be wargaming’s version of the WSJ.
MagWeb offers subscribers access to over 11,000 articles from 61 different wargame and military history magazines who in turn receive royalties from the service. The site updates its collection every few days, and provides lists of its newest additions. They do not have complete runs of all of their magazines online, but there is enough reading matter here to keep almost everyone happy. Over 70 sample articles can be viewed for free at their web site. MagWeb has its own site search engine, and the group recommends the best and most popular articles to make navigation fairly simple. The articles are displayed online in a reader-friendly format and download quickly.
The service also presents original material on its site. MagWeb does its own book reviews (military history, fiction and science fiction with military themes), reprints sample chapters from novels, RPG rulebooks, and military history books, and carries game reviews. One can also find interviews with game designers, military and hobby news, convention announcements and reports, and battlefield touring information, complete with links. Finally, MagWeb offers a corkboard and an online store.
In short, MagWeb aspires to be a full-service wargaming and military history site--sort of an AOL for the hobby, only without the bad service and the busy signals. They charge $14.95 per month, although the rate drops to under $5 per month if you pay for a year in advance. Most of what is on MagWeb right now is oriented towards military history and miniatures, but there are things for boardgaming, RPGs, and CCGs, and the latter presences should increase over time. Highly recommended.
Peter L. de Rosa
Note: The original version of this review appeared in Strategist 29 (August 1998):4. The Strategist is the newletter of the Strategy Gaming Society.
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WORLD WAR II GAMES FOR EDUCATORS by Peter L. de Rosa
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