The NPD Group has taken steps to remove what little transparency still remains regarding videogame sales figures, by reportedly requesting that analysts no longer discuss data with the media.
Of late, the group’s monthly reports have not included any precise sales figures and have ceased mentioning hardware sales entirely. The reports restrict themselves to a US top ten “best sellers,” lacking in concrete sales figures.
GamesIndustry are now reporting that NPD has issued a specific request to analysts such as Cowen & Company to remove media contacts from mailing lists and not to discuss sales data with journalists.
Recently, NPD stated that the group would in its monthly reports in response to publisher criticism. However, close reading of NPD analyst Anita Frazier’s quotes seems to indicate that this information will only be released to paying clients: “The goal is to provide our clients with a total [point of sale] games tracking service that incorporates the growing digital channel as well as the currently predominant physical format.”
These steps may effectively close the door on media access to videogame sales data; something which, due to the lack of access to transparent data, is already poorly reported.
[UPDATE] NPD has issued a statement about the decision to Gamasutra, which reads as follows: “We have heard from our clients and retail partners that NPD information is increasingly out in the public domain without proper attribution, incorrect context and in other ways that is not in the best interest of our clients or the industry … our Financial Services clients have agreed to help us and the industry in this regard.”
“We are not freezing out the media as it has been portrayed. Instead, we are looking to work even more directly with the media than we already do to ensure our information and insights are used responsibly.”
Reading between the spin here, it looks like NPD wants greater control over the issue of sales data. Note that NPD is only prepared to work with the media if “information [is] used responsibly.” Responsibly, in this case, means in the interests of publishers and NPD’s other clients. Not the general public.
If less-than-successful sales data is freely available to the public (released via the games media,) it becomes harder for publishers to massage figures and present them in a positive light to potential investors.
As ever in the these cases, it’s smart to follow the money. NPD makes money providing sales data to clients, who in turn use it to secure investment. If too many sales figures enter the public domain, it undermines this business relationship. However, it also means that any sales data which reaches the general public in future will have been specifically released by people with a vested interest in how that data is presented. In short, don’t expect to be seeing too many ‘bad news’ sales figure stories.