US market data firm NPD has published and promptly withdrawn figures for the performance of videogames retail in November, with analysts expecting the final figures to be significantly lower than the original reported fall of 4 per cent.
NPD's first data release, which arrived last night, showed US console software sales of $818 million for November - down only four per cent from the previous year, which is far better performance than most industry watchers had predicted.
However, the firm quickly withdrew the data, and plans to release corrected data as soon as it can be prepared. A statement from the group, probably indicating when that data will appear, will be issued later today.
The move is unusual for NPD, and leaves the industry without any clear indication of just how bad the November situation actually was - but even a glance at the raw figures provided by NPD in the initial report is telling.
In terms of sales actually tracked by the company, NPD saw a 21 per cent decrease in console software sell-through in November, translating to a decline of over $115 million in terms of dollar sales.
However, NPD does not track sales from many mainstream retailers - most notably Wal-Mart, which was the largest single retailer of videogames in the United States before the EB Games and GameStop merger earlier this year - and the firm adjusted its figures to allow for what it believed to be a major market share gain for those retailers.
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities believes that the adjustment was unrealistic, leading to the artificially low market decline figure in the now withdrawn report.
"We believe that the mass merchants not included in the NPD's data set (notably, Wal-Mart and Costco) indeed gained share on the other retailers represented in the NPD data," he commented. "However, we think that it is aggressive to assume market share gains of the magnitude implied bu the NPD gross up factor."
Pachter believes, based on the raw NPD data in the report, that the final industry decline for November is probably close to his own original estimate of 15 per cent - a major shortfall in what is a crucial month for the industry's sales.