From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Strategy guides are instruction books that contain hints or complete solutions to specific video games. The exact meaning of a "strategy guide" these days is very vague, as most could be easily ranked as "walkthroughs" or "hint collections".
The term "strategy guide" is widely used for printed, comprehensive walkthrough/hint collection — either a book or a booklet. Some video game magazines publish individual articles that are called "strategy guides", though these are typically better termed walkthroughs or hint collections.
The strategy guide books or booklets are typically sold through game retailers. In cases of exceptionally popular game titles, they are sold through more mainstream publication channels, such as bookstores or even newsstands. The strategy guides are often reasonably cheaply priced, and often sold at a lower price if purchased with the game itself. Sometimes, these bundles of game and strategy guide are very heavily marketed. Some game retailer chains, for example, have gained notoriety for trying as hard as possible to sell such bundles, even to the point where customers find it intrusive.
The strategy guides are not limited to strategy games; they are quite common with RPGs and action games as well.
Strategy guides may typically published by game distributors themselves, or licensed to a specialty publishing house. Prima Games, a division of Random House, is a well known example, known for their Prima "Official" Game Guides. Brady Games, a division of Pearson Education, is another publisher which is well known for their Brady Games Official Strategy Guides. These kind of guides are fully licensed from the game makers, and are thus marketed as the "official" strategy guides. There are also a number of publishers who make third-party, unlicensed, "unofficial" strategy guides, and many of today's's mainstream publishers, such as Brady Games and Prima Games, began their history by making third-party guides.
The contents of a strategy guide varies from game genre to another. Typically, the guides contain:
- detailed gameplay information, for example, maneuvers that are not detailed in the manual
- complete maps of the game, which show the placement of all items (including hidden and hard-to-find ones)
- detailed instructions for specific locations on how to proceed from there
- explanations of puzzles
- details of enemies, including techniques on defeating individual enemies (especially "boss" monsters)
- checklist of collectible items
- cheats and game editing, although this has been less common in official guides
- walkthroughs to help the player complete levels
Publishing before game release
In order to be released at the same time as the game, commercial strategy guides are often based on a pre-release version of the game, rather than the final retail version (a good example was BradyGames strategy guide for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It included slightly off locations for collectable items, included adrenaline locations which were removed before release, and had a slightly different map, which made it impossible to find the black van in Los Venturas used for break-ins using their guide). Until recently they could not be updated after they are published, however BradyGames has begun offering free updates to their official strategy guides via their website. An alternative are the free, fan-made FAQs or walkthroughs located online which satisfies a user's need to be accurate and up to date.
Strategy guides are sometimes published before the game itself is published. This can be risky because there is always the chance that a game will end up not being released. In January 2001, Prima published a guide (ISBN 0-7615-3125-4) for the Dreamcast version of Half-Life that was cancelled late in development when Sega discontinued the console.
Some companies, a notable one Prima, will, at times, make mistakes in the book about the game itself, such as stating that "Character A" has a relationship with "Character B", despite there being no relationship. A notable incedint that occured relating to this was when Prima Guides made a strategy guide for the game "Sonic Adventure 2: Battle", when they cited the character Super Shadow, they reffered to him as Hyper Shadow. This particular incedint has become an internet meme in the Sonic Community.
Guides and technology
The rise of the World Wide Web and the increasing availability of free online FAQs and walkthroughs has taken away some of the need for commercial strategy guides. Of special note are walkthrough sites (such as GameFAQs). However, there is still a large market for them. Strategy guides often feature extensive picture-by-picture walkthroughs, maps, game art, and other visual features that cannot be provided by a bare text online walkthrough.
Some publishers have tried combining the printed books with the Internet. In 2000, one of the most dubious examples of this was the Final Fantasy IX Official Strategy Guide published by BradyGames, but much of the information was contained on Square's PlayOnline website. This seemed like a good way to promote PlayOnline, while creating a guide that would have updatable content, but it was widely panned. Players saw no need of buying a book if a significant part of the content was online; and there was no point paying for online content from one site, if it was available for free on another site. As a result, Square abandoned the online strategy guide concept and released complete printed guides for future games. 
- Strategy guide publishers
- Game Guides Online
- DoubleJump Books
- Nintendo Power
- Piggyback Interactive
- Prima Games
- Lunabean Guides
- Online strategy guides and FAQs
- IGN FAQs