By Jared Newman | Monday, September 21, 2009 at 6:38 pm
Addressing what increasingly seems like a glaring omission in its sales charts, The NPD Group says it will start tracking sales of downloadable video and computer games.
That’s important if you’re at all interested in how gaming is changing. NPD finds itself in headlines every month, when it releases sales figures for games and consoles. When we want to know if games are in a recession or whether an experimental game idea worked out commercially, NPD is usually a good resource.
But lately, it seems like the group’s sales figures don’t provide the whole picture, and NPD itself knows it. NPD’s corporate marketing director David Riley told MCV that tracking game downloads will reduce “the spin, and in some cases, misleading information that often appears on the internet.”
It’s not clear who Riley was pointing that comment at, but I think game publishers shoulder at least some of the blame. We usually only hear about the performance of downloadable content when it’s wildly successful (see the popularity of Shadow Complex for the Xbox 360). Even then, the news is just a flash in the pan, and we have no way to track the performance of a downloadable game over time. I’d definitely like to see, for instance, how the shelf life of a downloadable game compares to a boxed retail title.
NPD was short on details for this plan, which seems awfully ambitious. The group plans to track console, PC and mobile games, which, as Joystiq points out, would comprise a lot of distribution channels, including small, independent outlets. No start date has been announced, and NPD didn’t say whether it will track downloadable add-ons for existing games, or just full games.
Still, I look forward to whatever NPD puts together. For understanding how digital distribution is changing video games, anything’s better than nothing.