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EA calls shenanigans over NPD's lack of digital game sales

The monthly release of video game sales information from NPD Group is regarded as just about the most well-respected barometer as to how the industry is performing in the US and what companies are doing better than others. But the company has never included data for digital game transactions, which EA says makes all the information a bit sketchy.

"Using NPD data for video game sales is like measuring music sales and ignoring something called iTunes," said EA corporate communications exec Tiffany Steckler in an interview.

NPD's monthly lists tally up sales of every video game platform as well as the top 250 individual game sales across all platforms. It also reports how much in total spending there was in the industry. The specific numbers are not publicly released, but professionals in the industry can receive them and they have a way of being spread around the Internet.

However, the figures are made up entirely of games purchased at retail stores. If 100 people buy Burnout Paradise at GameStop and 50 more buy it through the PlayStation Network, NPD will only record 100 copies sold.

The company does keep an entirely separate set of data for digital game sales, and releases that information in a quarterly report. Those reports don't get nearly as much attention, though. And because they don't come out in monthly installments, it's difficult to analyze the industry as a whole.

For example, NPD noted in its most recent monthly report that retail video game software sales were down 8% in February 2011 compare to February 2010. But did an increase in digital sales make up for that? NPD doesn't provide a way for us to know. It simply reports that sales were down 8%, which causes market analysts and investors to take a step back.

Because of this discrepancy, Steckler said, "We see NPD's data as a misrepresentation of the entire industry."

The NPD data may not be entirely irrelevant, but the lack of an equal set of data for digital content does make it tough to properly analyze sales trends in the industry.


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Mar 15, 2011