[casual_games] Top Download List

Jason Willig jwillig at bigtopgames.com
Wed Jan 18 12:35:46 EST 2006

Sorry, not a portal response, but perhaps a work-around (which I'm sure some
folks are already using in some form or another).

Even with a relatively small sample of sales data (from a single portal or
other reliable source representing a sizable percentage of the market, say
15%-25%), it would probably be possible to create a reasonably reliable tool
for tracking directional sales of online games. After all, NPD does not
reflect actual sell-thru, but rather an extrapolation of retail sales from a
"statistically reliable" sample (for example, Wal-Mart -- which represents
~30% of a typical games retail sales -- does not report to NPD so they have
to account for that gap by extrapolating their data). 

One major caveat: it might not make sense to capture every game on the
market (issue of diminishing returns...I'd focus on the top 50) and would
probably have a fairly wide margin of error relative to actual sales.
However, over time the margin could be reduced as the assumptions get
refined and it would offer reasonable, comparative information on a title by
title basis, which I think is quite valuable. Please keep in mind that any
tool like this is going to have certain fundamental flaws, specifically
inaccurate assumptions or changing market conditions which are not accounted
for in the calculation.

The key factors to such a tool, I think, is (1) a reliable, accurate
benchmark sample, (2) a transparent & defensible formula, (3) mutually
agreed upon assumptions and -- most importantly (4) data security for those
providing the information. Seems like if we can find a willing participant
each of these is relatively straightforward to ensure...

For example:
Portal A provides sales information for their top 50 games (downloads &
We assume Portal A represents X% of the total download market
Market share percentages are assigned to Portals B, C, D & E as well as
secondary players & alternative distributors (obviously, adding up to 100%)
Weight each of those with a margin of error % (i.e. "I'm X% confident in
these assumptions")
Use a website traffic tracking tool (such as http://www.alexa.com/) as some
type of sanity check and possibly an additional weighting criteria
Cross-reference against macro-level growth trends (like the IDC report from
last year) to make sure the # 's are generally in-line w/ these projects (as
an additional sanity check)

And there you go...

I've spent many an hour crunching these types of numbers and would be happy
to volunteer to put something together.

Jason Willig
voice: 206-650-2272
fax: 206-260-1376
jwillig at bigtopgames.com

Big Top Games
1511 3rd Avenue
Suite 531
Seattle, WA 98101

-----Original Message-----
From: casual_games-bounces at igda.org [mailto:casual_games-bounces at igda.org]
On Behalf Of Chris Early
Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 8:14 AM
To: IGDA Casual Games SIG Mailing List
Subject: RE: [casual_games] Top Download List

For the record, I'd be willing to support aggregated reporting, once the
issue of a professional independent third party is resolved.  (Brian's issue
#2 below) When NPD or Billboard or the like is ready to do this, then we are
willing to participate.  My primary concern is the security and anonymity of
the data.

I don't agree that there is no immediate reason to report their numbers.
(Brian's point #1 below) I would like to have aggregated numbers, so to get
them I would disclose.  And that is for my own uses, let alone the benefit
that would accrue from the industry-wide attention it would generate.

I would be surprised if the other portals did not feel the same way.
Any of them care to chime in?


Chris Early
Studio Manager
Microsoft Casual Games
Voice: (425) 705-6513
Fax: (425) 926-7329
Chris.Early at microsoft.com
-----Original Message-----
From: casual_games-bounces at igda.org
[mailto:casual_games-bounces at igda.org] On Behalf Of Brian Robbins
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 5:47 AM
To: IGDA Casual Games SIG Mailing List
Subject: Re: [casual_games] Top Download List

Thanks everyone for the great discussion on this. As a SIG our goal is to
meet the needs and desires of the community, and discussions like this are
what help us know exactly what all of you are looking for.

We are currently working towards a goal of having download or sales numbers
aggregated across portals, although this is a long-term process. Right now
the first step is creating a universal data reporting format that all the
players in the space can support. James Gwertzman is working on this with a
small group of volunteers.

As this format begins to gain acceptance it will make a lot of things much
easier for everyone. It will help reduce the delay and errors currently in
tracking sales and revenue for developers. Instead of having to type things
into Excel by hand, you will be able to use a tool to automatically import
your actual data. Over time we hope that this will enable a shorter delay in
sales reporting from portal through to developer, with an eventual goal of
near real-time sales reports.

Another long-term goal for this standard is that it would dramatically lower
the barrier for creating an inustry-wide sales report.

As I see it there are a few problems with establishing an industry-wide
numbers, most of which have already been touched on:

1 - Right now there is no immediate reason for anyone in the space to report
their numbers. As a group, if we all do it can start to generate a
significant long-term press and focus on this space, but the short-term
benefits are nearly non-existent to established players.

2 - There is no indepent 3rd party who is currently setup to take on this
type of project. While it is a great idea in theory, in practice I do not
think this is something a small group of independents could or should get
involved in. In order to verify the integrity of the entire process the
group needs to be completely independent and have the resources to safeguard
any proprietary information, only releasing the numbers in aggregate. I
don't see a small group of volunteers being able to establish appropriate
safeguards and trust to do this.

3 - If this does start to get off the ground, we get back to the debate of
what should and should not be included. It's easy to say that all the
portals should be, but what about Wal-Mart and Best Buy?
There's a not insignificant amount of casual games being sold through the
traditional retail channel.

I do think that all of these are solvable issues, and it is a long-term
process which we are only starting with today. The biggest and most
important thing to making sure this happens is having the desire and support
within the community for it. We seem to have that today, and I'm hopeful we
can use that to keep this moving forward.

Also, I do not think the so-called "prisoners dilemma" will be an issue. As
this begins to take off checks and balances will need to be implemented to
minimize the chances of this happening, and allow any discrepancies to be
caught and weeded out quickly. In the end if we cannot trust that anyone is
providing truthful numbers then the entire idea of this is sunk before we
get started.

Brian Robbins
Director Online Gaming, Fuel Industries
Chair, IGDA Online Games SIG and Casual Games SIG
http://www.igda.org/online/   http://www.igda.org/casual/
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