ZZap! 64 was first launched in 1985, It came out as a fully games orientated magazine at a time when most other Commodore 64 magazines gave only marginal coverage to games. ZZap originally only contained C64 game reviews but by the latter part of 1988 Amiga games were covered from time to time. However, in issue 42 (October 1998), the Amiga became a permanent part of ZZap, well permanent that is until issue 74 (June 1991) when ZZap again returned to it's original format of C64 games only.
All went well until November 1991 when issue 79 failed to hit the streets and we were informed by a certain other C64 magazine that ZZap's publishing company, Newsfield had gone out of business. So it seemed after 6 years the reign of ZZap had come to an end, however all was not lost as an ex ZZap editor, a Newsfield director and ZZap's cover illustrator got together and raised the finances needed to buy the magazine from the liquidators, through another publishing company known as Europress.
So ZZap returned to the presses and out came issue 79 in December 1991. Over the following year the magazine had many design changes, some good, some bad, like the terrible "Lash 'n Bash" who took over the letters page from Lloyd Mangram. Officially the last issue of ZZap was issue 90 (November 1992). The reason for this was that the magazine was relaunched as Commodore Force in January 1993 to reflect the way the magazine had changed so much since it was first launched in 1985. One big change that was brought in with Commodore Force was the return of Lloyd to the letters page, a very welcome event.
By this stage the C64 market was starting to die pretty fast, with only around 10 reviews a month, most of which were re-releases but Commodore Force was still going strong with reviews of the few new games coming out and also containing features where the all time best games of a genre were reviewed. Issue 10 (October 1993) of Commodore Force was actually ZZap's 100 birthday and this fact was celebrated with a two page pullout charting the history of ZZap. Over the next few months the amount of reviews per issue averaged only around 3 but from the very few commercial games that were released, many were of high quality, such as Mayhem in Monsterland and Lemmings (which came out for the C64 eventually). The lack of commercially available games was somewhat offset by Commodore Force including some great games on their covertapes such as Driller, Impossible Mission 2 and Bionic Commandos.
Issue 16 (March 1994) of Commodore Force has got to be the only issue of a games magazine that didn't actually have any game reviews within its covers. Ironically James Price, in the editor's column spoke of the situation as, "... the decline - even death of the C64 software market presents us with a dilemma. With so many '64 users and CF readers remaining loyal, we 're not planning to shut up shop, but it's difficult to fill the pages these days...", ironic because this was the last ever issue of ZZap / Commodore Force. It later emerged that for the second time in its history, the magazine's publisher (Europress) Impact had gone bust and with the way the C64 market was, I guess it would have been a little insane for anybody to buy the title.
And so it was that after 9 long years of ZZap entertaining the C64 gaming public, it was put to rest.
There was also an Italian version of Zzap!, which was first launched in May 1986 but it didn't appear to have the high quality that it's English counterpart had. The issues were under 80 pages each month with only about 50 percent of the game reviews that were in the English version. Approximately 80 percent of the magazine was directly translated and the other 20% consisted of articles and reviews written in Italy, interestingly, not all were for the C64. The Italian version also had Spectrum, Vic 20 etc. reviews and later on had reviews for the consoles and handhelds. The Italian Zzap! stopped production in late 1992 but was "reborn" recently as a Net only magazine, which you must pay to browse. There is a demo of the magazine at http://www.xenia.it/zzap!/main.htm (all in Italian of course), but it has nothing to do with the old English and geniune Zzap!
I started getting ZZap at issue 41 (September 1988) and never missed an issue during the next 6 years even towards the end when I rarely used my C64 anymore. I always looked forward to reading the magazine even though at times it went through rough periods, content wise. It gave many hours of readings and I learnt everything I know about C64 games from ZZap over the years so that's why I've created this page and also why this page is dedicated to the memory of ZZap 64! Here's to ya Zappy!
Thanks to Alessandro for the information on the Italian Zzap!
Here are some excerpts from the History of Crash Issues 1 to 50 as told by Llyod relating to Zzap!
|Crash - March 1985
|ZZAP! . . . ? Well, no-one really liked Sprite & Sound. Newsfield was expected to come up with something as sharp-sounding and short as CRASH, so in the end we settled on ZZAP!, adding the 64 as an afterthought. But as events were soon to prove there was nothing ‘afterthought’ about ZZAP!
|Crash - May 1985
|While we were working on CRASH, down in Yeovil, Somerset. where Chris Anderson lived and the ZZAP! 64 writers were based, the new magazine's first issue was being completed. Newsfield was about to double its production base.
|Crash - June 1985
|At this moment a crisis arose. Though Newsfield's new Commodore title ZZAP! 64 had taken off extremely well, production problems were emerging with its editorial base being far away in Yeovil. Chris Anderson had provided a marvellous product, but he didn't want to move up to Ludlow, whereas Newsfield's management wanted the magazine in its own premises. There was a head-on clash which resulted in Chris leaving the company and the ZZAP! team arriving in Ludlow in the middle of June as we started on the July issue. We all had to move round to make room . . .
|Crash - July 1985
|ZZAP! staff writers Gary Penn and Julian Rignall arrived in Ludlow during June, halfway through work on their issue. This was the moment when Roger Kean, perforce of necessity, took over editorship of ZZAP! and relinquished his role on CRASH. It seemed to many readers a traitorous act from the man who had become so firmly associated with the Spectrum, but in fact Roger continued to keep an eye on the magazine he had helped found a year and a half earlier, as Graeme Kidd moved up from Assistant Editor to Editor.
|Crash - October 1985
|This month saw the start of Newsfield's Amstrad magazine AMTIX! in direct competition with Amstrad
Action, which was launched at the same time. Jeremy Spencer became AMTIX! coeditor with Roger Kean, each of them
doubling their existing roles. And Newsfield had spawned its first spin-off, for Amstrad Action's publisher was
Chris Anderson, ex-editor of ZZAP!.
CRASH’s editorial masthead had expanded yet again, to credit Gary Penn, Julian Rignall and Gary Liddon as contributing writers. This was at a time when there was an all-hands-to-the-deck feeling about the small staff putting together three magazines. Penn and Rignall, however, only contributed a little to CRASH reviews, working mostly on ZZAP!.
|Crash - November 1985
|Gary Liddon had originally applied in the previous year. He wasn't taken on then, but had gone on to do reviews for Big K, and when that magazine closed he went to work for Domark. It was there that Jeremy Spencer met him during a preview for A View To A Kill and was impressed enough to suggest Newsfield hire him as a Staff Writer. At first Gary's function was to rove between all three magazines, but eventually he settled down as a ZZAP! writer, remaining with the magazine till Newsfield appointed him to Thalamus, its software house.
|Crash - Christmas Special 1985/1986
|As soon as the Christmas issues had gone to press, February's had to be considered, for ZZAP! at least had to be at the printer before the Christmas break. It was a weary team that gathered at the Bull Hotel for the Newsfield Christmas Dinner a few days before the holiday, but no-one could fail to be pleased. CRASH’s circulation figures were among the highest ever achieved for a computer title in Britain, ZZAP! was doing splendidly and hopes for AMTIX! were running high. It seemed a good way to go into the New Year.
|Crash - October 1986
|Roger Kean had finally relinquished the editorship of ZZAP! to Gary Penn, and moved with the rest
of LM to their new home in Gravel Hill. It was a
|Crash - December 1986
|The first issue (Issue Zero) of LM was almost ready for printing; to reach as many readers as possible, it was to be included free in the Christmas Specials of CRASH, ZZAP! and AMTIX! rather than go on the newsagents' shelves on its own.
|Crash - Christmas Special 1986/1987
|The big fun event for all the magazines was the Reviewers' Challenge, which starred Gary Penn and Julian Rignall representing ZZAP!, Richard Eddy and Massimo Valducci representing AMTIX! and Ben Stone and Mike 'Skippy' Dunn representing CRASH. Massimo was a young man from Shrewsbury who had been given a job earlier as a trainee subeditor, but had drifted into the role of AMTIX! reviewer. His Italian good looks made him popular with the female members of Newsfield staff, and their bets were on him to win. Everyone else's were on Julian Rignall as supposedly the company's ace arcadester, but in the event it was Ben Stone who won for CRASH . . . much to his surprise.
|Crash - July 1987
|At the very moment when it seemed the year's earlier troubles had become a memory, an earthquake shock hit us. Without warning Gary Penn, ZZAP! Editor, resigned, saying he was worn out. As he had some holiday owed, he left at the end of the week, and everyone held their breaths to see what would happen . . .
|Crash - October 1987
|It would be wrong to publish many of the confidential details, so suffice it to say that there were
serious problems with the way THE GAMES MACHINE was run by its two editors (fortunately they didn't show in the
finished product), and shortly after the completion of its first issue Graeme Kidd and Gary Penn were asked to
leave the company. That didn't cause any catastrophes itself, but when ZZAP! Editor Ciarán Brennan decided
a few days later to leave Ludlow and return to London a reshuffle was essential. Roger Kean assumed Graeme Kidd’s
role of general overseer, which job he had been effectively doing for several months at King Street anyway; Barnaby
took over CRASH,. Julian Rignall became Managing Editor of ZZAP!; and Dominic Handy became a full-time Staff Writer
It is now almost exactly four years to the day that Roger Kean, Matthew Uffindell and myself sat around the only two typewriters we possessed, staring at blank sheets of paper, wondering what it was Spectrum-owners wanted to read, trying to conceive of the first edition of CRASH. I am not sure whether the three of us harboured ambitions of seeing the company grow; probably, but magazines are organic things, and somehow they grow of their own accord. Newsfield was six people then: Roger, Oliver and Franco Frey, Matthew, Denise Roberts and myself part-time. At the moment of greatest growth (in terms of personnel), when LM was launched, it employed 60 full-time staff, also using eight college-age reviewers and some 30 regular contributors. Today there are just 34 full-time staff. It is a much slimmer operation, but also a much more streamlined and effective one.
|Crash - Christmas Special 1987/1988
|We have seen Sir Clive Sinclair's 'toy' computer become the best seller in Britain, enjoying unrivalled software support from games which have ranged from utter drivel to demonstrations of the kind of skills that even mainframe programmers would envy. Recently we saw the 8-bit market start to falter as budget-priced games took hold and unit sales fell; this has particularly hit the Spectrum, yet the games are still being produced and we are always capable of being surprised by some new piece of cleverness. And despite the much discussed fall-off of sales generally, Spectrum magazines continue to ride high. The 'Shropshire fanzine' of early 1984 attained the highest sales in Britain of any computer magazine - and at one point the highest world-wide sales of any British computer magazine and is still the market leader, along with its sister publication ZZAP!