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NPD: We're defining the digital market

Retail tracking group confident of collating true US sales data; advisory council in place as more publishers sign up

US consumer data firm the NPD Group has said that its digital tracking plans are well underway, and that with help from publishers the company is defining the complex online game sales market.

Speaking to our sister site IndustryGamers, president of games David McQuillan revealed that the company is creating an advisory council to help solidify exactly what constitutes 'digital' in a market of social, mobile, downloadable content and micro-transactions.

"As digital becomes a more significant piece of the overall spending gaming pie, I think the natural pressures of the market are going to dictate that information get shared out in the same way that it is for physical," said McQuillan. "Total market tracking will be a reality."

It's not that they don't want to share it with us; it's about how much of it they want in the public domain

David McQuillan, NPD.

"One of the things we're doing is defining the market. We're putting clear definitions around what's new physical, what's used, what's digital, what's in subscriptions, what's in social network gaming, what's in rental, what's in mobile, etcetera.

"We're putting this out there as our stake in the ground, but we're also creating an advisory council, because the interesting thing is we've gone out and presented this to clients and other folks in the industry, and everyone kind of has a variation on [what constitutes digital]."

Earlier this week NPD's Anita Frazier told that the company plans to include digital and second hand sales information in its monthly reports. That regular data used to be considered a true barometer of the US retail landscape, but has more recently been criticised for misrepresentation when 40 per cent of the market is online and untracked.

Collating the data had proven hard in the past, but McQuillan is encouraged as more publishers and distributors come onboard, although they may still be reticent about sharing information publicly.

"It's not that they don't want to share it with us; it's about how much of it they want in the public domain," he admitted.

"The goal is that we want to be reporting out on this total market at the same frequency as we are today for the POS tracking service. We will get there. It's partially dictated by the pace at which the digital retailers come onboard.

"I'd like to be there today, but I'm encouraged by the progress I've seen over the last couple months because as these pieces of the pie get bigger, the risk in not participating starts to outweigh the benefit of staying out," he continued. "Companies that didn't want to participate are now calling us and asking, 'How big am I as part of that pie?' or 'What segment am I in?' and that's a great way to get the conversation started with them about participating."

While the process of bringing publishers and distributors on board has been slow, NPD has also improved its consumer tracking service, allowing it to gather information about games purchased online via PC and consoles and through mobile services.

"What that's allowing us to do is capture information at a title level for digital transactions on consoles, PCs, portables – expanding that out to mobile – and just looking to get across the whole breadth [of the market] including subscriptions. And then we also have a tracking mechanism that is now monthly, that looks at all forms of acquisition – paid and unpaid – so that we can get as clear a picture of the market as we can."

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Matt Martin avatar

Matt Martin


Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.