Opinion: Time to change the charts

Confession: The new games chart we just published is inaccurate.

We couldn’t get all the data for all the games we wanted. Not everyone was willing to share. And yes, we know that’s the exact reason why an ‘official’ version of that chart doesn’t exist.

But then again, the ‘UK games chart’ that the likes of MCV, Eurogamer, GamesIndustry.biz, Videogamer and many others publish each Monday morning isn’t accurate either, most of the time.

It was definitely wildly inaccurate two weeks ago – our cover proves it.

By contrast, look at the reveal of the No.1 music single and album each week. This is a genuine measure of the most popular release of the week. That industry does the alleged ‘unachievable’, uniting disparate platforms and data in one – boxes, downloads and streams.

So it’s an embarrassment that the games industry does not have a similarly reliable record, regardless of the industry cold war over sharing data. Maybe it’s that bitter stubbornness which is hurting the business.

Our chart this week throws up plenty of legitimate questions. How do you even present a chart like this on a regular basis? Considering the price differences between the titles, what about a value chart? How do we count free-to-play revenues? Do we include DLC? What about mobile?

But those questions are not worth asking right now. Only one question matters: why is this so hard for the industry to pull its finger out and get this sorted?

"Just think what the industry could
achieve if everyone shared digital
data with any real depth."

UKIE valiantly tried to launch a chart of its own last year, but couldn’t get sign-off from 100 per cent of its audience. The answer in the mean time is to revert to accepting the retail charts. But do we have to accept the market was worth just 6.8m two weeks ago?

And it’s not like we weren’t warned. Chart-Track’s already excellent data is useful to a large section of our industry, but it’s not telling the whole story. Chart-Track was the first to say it back when MCV ran a tentative ‘digital chart’ story back in 2007. No one listened. To give you a feel of how long ago that was, and how much warning we had, that was before the iPhone was launched.

Our rogue, scrappy alternative chart tells us a lot. It tells us players do like strategy games, that 2D titles can still sell decent units, that SimCity-style games are as popular as they ever were, that PC truly is a major platform and that Team 17, Devolver and Paradox can mix it up with the likes of EA, Ubisoft and Activision.

You won’t get that from the retail charts.

If there’s some fear at a senior exec level about the story that tells, then that’s just dumb. A chart, like the one that we have made, points in lots of directions and highlights lots of opportunities for publishers, developers, retailers, investors and the media – for all of us.

Just think what the industry could achieve if it pulled this one together with any real depth.

Our job as the trade publication is to provide useful information to you. And without accurate data, it’s becoming increasingly difficult.

But we will keep trying. As we say on the cover, we’ll continue to try and print charts like the one this week, and reveal data whenever we can get hold of it. It may not be quite right, it may not be every week, but until the industry can start sharing data in a managed way, it’s the best we can do to help you place the right bets.

About MCV Staff

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