Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Thursday, October 14, 2010

NPD, Data Provider, Announces Data Concealment

Here's some disappointing news: NPD, for many years a major source of numbers about retail sales, has announced that they will no longer provide numbers for the amount of hardware or software sold each month. At least, not unless you're a paying customer.  So it's going to be much harder for those of us unwilling to pay thousands of dollars for this information. Which, generally, means smaller developers, where much of the industry opportunity and growth lies.

I suppose it makes sense for NPD to try and enhance a revenue stream. It is interesting to note that NPD will begin footnoting their information to make it clear that their numbers don't include such things as digital distribution, subscriptions, used game sales, and so on, which constitute an increasing part of the total consumer spending on games. NPD says they will cover the totality of consumer spending in quarterly reports, though. (But I wonder how accurate those reports will be; what are their data sources? Will companies involved with digital distribution be giving NPD their numbers? That "total consumer spending" is spread across a very large number of sellers, and I really question NPD's ability to get any kind of statistically significant data on the entirety of the field.)

NPD does go on to say that they will release some numbers here and there when they talk about a specific title, and of course the publishers who subscribe to NPD are free to state numbers themselves if they so choose.

It does make me wonder if part of the reason for this shift is the negative effect of two years' worth of reporting a slide in sales figures. Did NPD's subscribers put pressure on them to make this move, hoping to staunch the flow of bad sales numbers (under the theory that bad numbers leads to bad press, which leads to more bad numbers)? It can't have been happy-making for publishers and manufacturers to see independent numbers released every month to show how badly they're doing. Especially if NPD's numbers aren't tracking a significant part of their revenue, if publishers are getting more revenue from digital distribution, DLC, subscriptions and other things.

In a way, this underscores the current weakness in the traditional channels, and the continuing slide in the share of total industry revenues the traditional channel represents. Marketers are going to have to make do with fewer hard numbers, or find other ways to get the data that is relevant to them. I for one will be trying to dig up info from other places, and I'll post it here as I get it.

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