I remember a time, 25 years ago, when Radio 1 would spend a large part of Sunday afternoon counting down the top 40 singles of the week. The big highlight was the top ten, of course, but also a lot of focus was given to the highest climber with a single often improving their position by twenty places or more. As for the Number One, it was always a question of whether a song had climbed high enough to topple the previous incumbent or how many weeks said incumbent had remained in top spot. A new entry at the top of the charts was extremely, extremely rare.
Over the years the dynamic of the charts has changed. Assessment is done on airplay as well as sales and the digital marketplace also factors alongside physical copies. The biggest difference between then and now, however, is that there is a new Number One every week. A new entry at the top of the charts and those that didn’t make it to the top spot littering the nine places beneath.
The main driver of this shift revolves around how singles are released and marketed. In my teenage years, singles were released to the public on the same day as radio stations. As the popular ones got more and more airplay, the buzz around them would increase and so would the sales. Hence the high-climbers and long stays at the top. In the 21st century the singles are being played on the radio long before release, social media and other avenues used to market the song loudly proclaiming the release date.
And when that date comes everyone rushes out to buy the single which in turn pushes it to the top of the charts before an immediate drop off the next week.
Needless to say, there are spoilers ahead. You have been warned.
I see parallels to this in the video game industry. Games, especially the big blockbusters, are revealing more and more about themselves in advance of a formal release. Usually I can deal with the barrage of trailers, demos, beta trails and social media exposure but there have been a couple recently that, in my opinion have gone too far.
I don’t want to see any gameplay of Mass Effect: Andromeda at all, let alone 17 minutes of a key plot point for one of the characters. Surely as gamers we want to explore the vast worlds and meet the people there ourselves? Do we really want to know what happens months before release and have the mystery of those moments stripped away? I’m not a fan of spoilers in any medium but given how central loyalty missions were to Mass Effect 2, the logic of revealing this footage so early baffles me.
Speaking of spoilers, here’s a cracker. Horizon Zero Dawn had been out for less than 12 hours when the Official PlayStation Magazine started tweeting about a hidden scene at the end of the game. 12 hours! And that’s counting from midnight. It was sent out at 11.15am on the day of release of the biggest exclusive game of the year so far. Unbelievable.
What do you think, am I being unreasonable? Or in the wake of the No Man’s Sky outcry, are we seeing a new trend of too much information too soon?