The NPD Group will take the first steps in a plan to measure digital sales of video games and include the figures in its monthly reports, according to an interview with GamesIndustry.biz.
NPD is introducing a Digital Games Tracking Service that works at the point of sale in digital storefronts to track sales in the United States, broken out by SKU, the same as if the product was sold physically in a store. GamesIndustry.biz says NPD's digital measuring efforts have the support of Electronic Arts, Activision, Ubisoft, Capcom, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Square Enix and Deep Silver. Notably, Bethesda Softworks and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo's publishing divisions are not involved.
NPD's digital tracking service will still pull sales data from PlayStation Network, Xbox Live and Steam. (Services like Battle.net or uPlay are not included.) EEDAR is collaborating with NPD on the data tracking service. Downloadable content add-ons will be tracked but those figures will be shared only with NPD's participating clientele, not the media or the public.
Reports with the digital data will begin on the third Thursday of the month, starting July 21. David Riley, NPD's top spokesman, said "the fact that we're allowed to go out with something for the media is a huge step in the right direction," even if it doesn't break out revenue from DLC extensions, microtransactions and the like.
Major publishers have continually touted the growth in their digital revenues, particularly in microtransaction-supported franchises such as Electronic Arts' FIFA and Madden NFL Ultimate Teams, and Take-Two Interactive's NBA 2K MyPlayer and Grand Theft Auto Online. However, the figures quoted are typically big-picture, total revenue amounts only and don't break out how customers are spending their money, any trends in the revenue, or other performance figures. It doesn't appear NPD's tracking service will be able to shed more light on this to the public.
NPD's service will remain focused on sales of full version console video games (and their PC versions, assuming they have them). Riley said the goal "was to combine full-game physical with full-game digital, keep away from the DLC, keep PC games separate because that's a whole different ball of wax," he said.
That said, Riley hinted that NPD's reporting could expand in the future to include more publishers and could divulge DLC and microtransaction revenues as publishers become more comfortable with the new service.
For years, NPD had been criticized for the lack of digital figures in its reports, which had tracked only physical retail sales even as digital formed an increasingly significant portion of major publishers' revenue. NPD said in a statement that the digital reporting service was now launching after "years of beta testing." NPD analyst Liam Callahan added that even without some big names in the service, NPD was ready to launch now because "if we waited to have every publisher in the world to sign up it would take forever."