I spent the whole time editing this podcast on a yoga ball. So Gabe, I get you.
NPD numbers mean a lot to the video game industry. They try to compile data from across the industry and reveal just how well, or poorly, everyone is doing. NPD numbers can only show so much, and are often restricted to gathering sales data only from retailers and physical copies. The ESA, the Entertainment Software Association, is finally stepping up and loudly voicing their opinion that physical copies sold don’t accurately represent this industry anymore.
To be fair the NPD, or National Purchase Diary if you’re naughty, is a group that does market research and analysis, and collects their numbers from wherever they can. Copies sold are usually gathered from a few sources like the developer/publisher, the retailers who sell games, and really anyone who might be “in the know”. Even these physical numbers can only go so far, however. In the case of the Xbox One, Microsoft has stopped publishing their sales numbers. So NPD must now guess based on the word retailers such as Best Buy and Wal-Mart. It gets even trickier when you get to digital sales. Games of all kinds are sold on any number of devices, through a variety of online marketplaces, and not all of those sources reveal numbers. Valve’s Steam for instance is notorious for never revealing any sales figures.
And that’s what the ESA are complaining about. The ESA released an advisory saying:
“Scores of millions of consumers purchase innovative content in myriad ways, including subscription services, digital downloads, and via their mobile devices…Unfortunately, NPD’s revenue data yesterday continued to reinforce that traditional model at the expense of new areas where the industry is growing…ESA will do its part by encouraging and motivating NPD to release the total consumer spend for 2015 that includes all aspects of this diverse industry.”
NPD has responded back that they are “fully committed” to reporting on the entire video game industry and stand by their physical sales data. They claim it still represents a large portion of the industry but not all of it. It’s really a great middle of the road statement. They’re still claiming that their numbers matter (you have to pay to see the full NPD numbers, by the way) but they also know they aren’t complete.
Really this all comes down to honesty and openness. Not every company wants to reveal mistakes or costs. Yet somehow movie studios show off their books everyday and that industry is still afloat. If video games want to lead the way on digital sales and revolutionize how consumers view their purchased goods, then companies need to be more honest.