In this week’s MCV (Friday, January 13th), Michael French and Christopher Dring lead off the issue with a passionate call for digital providers to support The Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (UKIE) in their endeavours to create a digital game sales chart.
UKIE is currently in charge of creating the weekly boxed game charts, and those charts arrive bang on time each and every week. But when it comes to digital downloads sold via the standard PC route (Steam, Direct2Drive, EA Origin, etc.) or via Xbox Live, PSN or Nintendo’s shop channels, well…there’s nothing doing.
The industry has been calling for charts for these (and mobile) platforms for more than TWO YEARS. And nothing has been done. Nothing visible, at least.
To build a sales chart, you need three things. You need sales data, a way of collating that sales data, and somewhere to publish the results. I can write a sales data collation application (I’ve done a very similar thing for my day job just recently) in just a few days – so someone else could undoubtedly do it quicker – and the UKIE already has somewhere to publish the results – its own website. Once they set that chart live, it takes less than 12 hours for it to filter through the gaming eco-system and get replicated and commented on by hundreds of websites, read by millions of people.
So obtaining sales data is the last step, and that apparently takes two years.
I couldn’t agree less.
The problem apparently, is that not all digital games providers are that happy about handing over their sales numbers. I don’t blame them, given the culture of “build now, rack up tons of debt, one day we might make a profit” that the digital era has ushered in. They don’t want anyone looking up their virtual skirt and seeing that they’ve only sold ten games this week. But there are things that can be done to twist their arm. How about giving away chart sponsorships for free? Every week, a different sales data provider becomes the sponsor of the chart. “UK Digital Game Sales Chart presented by EA Origin” one week, and then “UK Digital Game Sales Chart presented by Direct2Drive” the next. If UKIE added a bit of blurb to the bottom of the chart to show which digital providers are included in the sales rankings, that’d clarify the situation.
Or, how about changing the “Chart Information Copyright UKIE” message and link that is required to be displayed by any content site that wants to republish the chart. How about – and I know this is absolutely WAY OUT THERE – the UKIE adds a second bit of text. “Chart Information Copyright UKIE – UK Digital Game Sales Chart brought to you by EA Origin” – with the words “EA Origin” being a link back to EA. As it currently stands, the standard text is nothing but self-serving nonsense dressed up as an important bit of copyright information. To be fair, it always has been.
That’s just two ideas that I’ve come up with in the space of five minutes. Every digital provider on the planet would jump at the chance of forcing HUNDREDS of websites to link to them on a weekly basis. If they refuse to give up their sales data, UKIE, you could do something other than acting like Mrs. Doyle and repeatedly shouting “ahh, gowan, gowan, gowan, gowan, GO ON!” in their ear.
You can even follow the “build it and they will come” route. Throw out a digital chart that contains the sales data from the companies that you DO have on board. The rest will join. You mark my words. If Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony have agreed to provide sales data, publish an Xbox Live, Nintendo Shop or PSN chart. The other companies will BEG you to accept their sales data then, so that they aren’t outdone by their rivals.
But it doesn’t surprise me that nothing has happened yet, to be fair. After all, there’s still no Kinect or Move-specific chart going on, and I can’t do something as simple as search the chart archives or build my own chart out of a selection of titles of my choice via the UKIE website. I don’t need to see the actual sales number, fellas, but would it be so hard to provide something where I could throw in forty or so game titles, and have your website instantly rank them in terms of the last week’s sales for me? In short no, it wouldn’t.
Hell, if I could go to their site, type in “Kinect Sports Season Two” and see that product’s chart history, that would be a bonus. Or find out if the Assassin’s Creed games all went to number one on the week of their release. Or see if 505 Games have ever had anything other than Zumba Fitness get into the top 5. Writers, analysts, retail buyers and publishers all want you to acknowledge their presence and act like you aren’t just sat there twiddling your thumbs, UKIE. I see your press releases, I read the articles about people and companies joining you, but I’m heavily embedded into the games industry, and I still don’t really know what it is you actually do – other than put forty numbers in order each week and call it a chart.
Ditch the politics and bureaucracy, guys, dump the excuses, and move into the 21st century.