It’s amazing how things have changed in a relatively short period of time in regard to release dates of films, music and videogames. Years ago it was common to have to wait months for a much-hyped film to make its way from the USA to the UK, and videogames were notorious for being released in Japan in one quarter, a US version showing up a few months later, and finally a bastardised, border-ridden, approximately 17% slower abomination (the speed difference between the 60hz NTSC system used in the States and the 50hz PAL standard over here) eventually landing on our shores. Thanks for that, oh people-who-didn’t-realise-that-Europe-is-a-big-market.
Yet now we get to see movies at roughly the same time as our chums from across the Atlantic, and it’s pretty standard (mostly thanks to Microsoft’s efforts in this field) for videogames to show up in the States on a Tuesday and then the UK three days later on Friday. This has become such an accepted state of affairs that it’s now bloody strange when we have to wait. How greedy we have become.
The ever-increasing ease of piracy has a lot to do with the change. I spent much time during the first couple of seasons of Lost waiting for the torrent file from that week’s episode to be released, and then downloading it at a crawling 40k per second. When Sky snatched the show from Channel 4, though, it figured out that if it could show Lost very close to the US transmission, then internet-savvy folk were less likely to bother obtaining it via nefarious means. Since then a number of shows have aired here in the same week as their Stateside bows. There’s still the odd anachronism – CSI Miami springs to mind, which starts airing here the summer after its autumn premiere in the States (presumably Five considers showing three new CSI shows in a single week to be overkill) – but overall the situation is much, much healthier than it used to be.
And piracy has brought film release dates much closer, too, with the notable (and really rather annoying) exception of Disney Pixar, which is still living in a bygone era. Probably the era of Mickey Mouse. Pixar’s amazing film Up!, for example, took a number of months to make it here – so many, in fact, that its Blu-Ray rip (a perfect high definition copy) was available on the internet before the film was even released in UK cinemas. That was pretty ridiculous.
So why am I talking about this today? Scott Pilgrim vs The World, of course. Directed by a Brit (Edgar Wright, the man behind the lens for Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz) and therefore with a lot of UK appeal, it’s out in the States two weeks earlier than it is here. Australia, too, weirdly. And I really, really want to watch it. See what I mean about greed? A few years ago, a two week gap would have seemed like heaven. Now, it’s torture.
This just shows how far we’ve come since the dark days of completely separate markets. We’re not quite at parity yet, but I can see a time not so far in the future when everything’s released worldwide on exactly the same day. Coincidentally, that’ll also be the day when the worldwide pirating frenzy of new TV episodes will stop. Well, when they get rid of the adverts as well, anyway. But that’s another discussion.