[casual_games] data reporting standards for casual games
james at popcap.com
Thu Sep 8 14:25:33 EDT 2005
Given the recent discussion on this mailing list around sales
reporting, I thought it would be timely to announce to the general
casual games community an initiative that the IGDA casual game SIG
has started up around data reporting. As you know, the charter of the
IGDA Casual Game SIG is to work to advance the interests of
developers in the casual game space, which is usually (though not
always!) synonymous with helping advance the entire industry.
Speaking personally, I don't think there is a broad need for better
auditing right now. For one thing, as Christopher points out, most
distribution agreements already have clauses that allow developers to
audit their sales if they believe there are problems. Furthermore, no
serious distributor is going to put their entire business at risk by
fraudulently reporting sales to their developers. I'm not sure who
exactly has a "mistrust of publishers" but speaking as one of the
larger game developers in this space, I can say that we have very
good relationships with all of our distributors and have high
confidence in the reports we get from them every month.
Instead, the problem that we feel acutely is that there is no
standard format for distributing results electronically, and as a
result there is no easy way to enter sales data from multiple
channels into a single database for a unified view. Here at PopCap,
our poor CFO literally spends days each month retyping data from
paper copies of royalty reports into a database so we can summarize
our sales. Not only is this time consuming, it's also error prone.
To address this problem, the IGDA casual game SIG steering committee
has created a task force specifically to work with the major
developers, publishers, and distributors in this space to try and
come up with a common electronic data format for communicating sales
data at all levels of the industry (between developers and
publishers, between publishers and distributors, between
distributors and their retail sites, etc.) Compliance with such a
format would obviously be voluntary, but would reduce the cost of
doing business for all of us.
Once we have a common format in place, there are some nice things we
can do with it. For one thing, we can then encourage distributors to
make near-real-time sales data available to their partners using
this common format. Given that we are an industry in which the vast
majority of sales happen online, most sales data already lives in a
database somewhere. Getting it out in a timely fashion should be
straightforward. To their credit, many sites already offer real-time
data, but usually in a proprietary web-form of some sort. Having the
data available in a common format will make such data far more
useful, because it would then be possible to create a real-time roll-
up of sales across all channels implementing this format.
Another, more contentious thing we could do, is create an industry-
wide "billboard" for top game sales. I know everyone will agree, but
I personally believe that having a common "top 10" or "top 100"
sales chart based on data from participating distributors would be
valuable for our industry. Not only would it help identify
successful games more quickly, but it would also provide very useful
PR and marketing information which can help raise the visibility of
our industry in the mainstream media -- and we all know that there
are far more potential customers right now than actual customers.
We are right now just getting this task-force off the ground.
Participation in this task-force is currently by invitation-only,
only because we need to keep the group somewhat small if we're going
to get anything done, however once we have something to present we
will open it up for comment. I hope the general casual game community
will agree that these are useful steps that will make thing easier
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