NPD Group said this week that its recent decision to limit the publication of monthly U.S. video game retail unit sales data is representative of the industry's shift to emerging online business models.
NPD analyst Anita Frazier said in a blog post that the policy change might have been "a hard pill for some to swallow" for some, but she argued that the new reporting format "is an important step for the industry."
She explained, "We’ve long acknowledged that our reporting of monthly point-of-sale purchases (covering new physical sales of hardware, software and accessories only, not used game sales) did not represent 100 percent of the consumer spend on the industry."
NPD said earlier this month it would stop reporting specific U.S. monthly hardware sales figures and video game software sales figures, although the group said it may release some unit sales data on a case-by-case basis. The firm still reports dollar-sales figures from retail.
The majority of the industry's consumer spend still happens at physical video game retailers, said Frazier. But business models based on digital downloads, virtual item buys, mobile apps and subscription models are generating more and more revenue for game companies.
NPD this month will release a new report, "Games Industry: Total Consumer Spend," which will attempt to give a bigger picture of how much the games industry makes by including such non-retail business models, along with physical retail data.
"Since new physical sales at retail have been down for some months now, the news that the industry is beleaguered has been widely covered, and it has caused unnecessary angst for many," Frazier said.
NPD reported last week that combined digital, used and rental game sales were between $2.6 and $2.9 billion for the first half of the year, in addition to the $3.7 billion spent at physical retail on new games, hardware and accessories for the period.