Remember the 90’s when strategy guides were hot business, even though most people technically had access to the Internet by that point and could get guides from GameFAQS for free? Pepperidge Farm remembers. And so does Prima Guides.
Prima was the king of the strategy guide business back in the day, and they still print them in these modern times, but for a different market: collectors. There are people who look for any kind of merch based on their favorite game, and strategy guides are a part of that. These days it’s not uncommon to see a guide for a popular game that’s been printed in massive hardcover form with glossy pages and an embossed cover. They’re not for mainstream audiences anymore; they’re the kind of book collectors want to buy.
There’s even a market, apparently, for reprints of older guides. Prima will be targeting it soon with a hardcover re-release of all three guides for the Playstation 1 years of Final Fantasy: VII, VIII and IX. The IX version, though, will need some fixing.
It was around that time period when Squaresoft was promoting its new PlayOnline website, and had a burning desire to see it blossom into a high-traffic hub for game information. If they could pull it off, it would particularly come in handy for the MMO they were about to launch, FFXI, in a couple years. They did NOT pull it off, and part of the blame may lie on the “modern” Net-savvy strategy guide Prima had to publish.
Under orders from Square, the entire book was filled with half-hints to progress through the game, with blue boxes near every paragraph that said “Find out the rest on PlayOnline.” Kotaku has posted scans of this. It’s regarded as the worst strategy guide ever printed. And no, none of the links or “keywords” in the book work anymore, even though PlayOnline is still up.
No one wants to buy a reprint of the worst strategy guide EVER, so Prima is doing some patch work….which may require rewriting the entire book. It will include everything that was in the original as well as everything that was on the PlayOnline website. Fifteen years later, FFIX fans will finally get the definitive print guide they need to beat the game. Somewhere in a remote part of the world, there is one hermit with a long beard, no Internet, and a collection of just PS1 games clapping for joy. It’s your day, Cletus!