It appears that the market researchers at The NPD Group are changing the way they distribute gaming sales data such that it is more profitable.
Starting this week, with its September release, NPD's free monthly gaming reports will no longer include the following:
- Hardware unit sales
- Software unit sales
- Individual versions of a title in its bestselling-games list
Instead, the reports will list the top-selling games of the month by title, with all versions of the game included in a single listing. The new reports will also include a statement saying the retail information it collected for the month do not include digital purchases, rentals, and other figures outside of physical sales.
There will be some financial information in the releases. NPD said analyst Anita Frazier will comment on monthly sales in the press release, including software sales figures for select titles. The company will also provide hardware sales revenue, game sales revenue, accessory sales revenue, and PC game sales revenue on an industrywide level.
The changes to NPD's monthly reports are significant. Previously, the company listed individual unit sales for each console, as well as individual versions of the respective month's top five best-selling games. NPD will still collect all the data it has in the past, but it's now limiting what will be freely available to the public.
Although NPD Executive Director David Riley said "pricing has nothing to do with this move," NPD did separately acknowledge that it decided to change its reporting "in order to address the changing sales landscape, as well as updates to NPD's corporate publishing policies." NPD's "scalable price structure," according to Riley, "varies on the level of information. [Point of sale] vs. consumers, cross industry vs. single industry, etc."
NPD's monthly findings have been considered by many to contain the best overall estimates of monthly gaming sales; they have commonly been used to judge the state of the industry. To gauge industry performance, the public will now need to either pay NPD for much of the data it has been getting free of charge, rely on the willingness of hardware makers and game publishers to release sales data, base its assumptions on NPD's much-abbreviated free reports, or turn elsewhere.
In any case, you can expect NPD-based reporting on gaming sales to slim down. Even news-publishing clients who have access to the full data upon initial release, Riley said, "are not permitted to use this information for journalism."