SuperData is the new official supplier of console download data for the UK games market. But how accurate is it? And can we expect it more frequently than just monthly? We ask CEO Joost van Dreunen
Tell us a bit about SuperData.
We're a New York-based games research start-up that specialises in digital games and playable media that started about six years ago.
In working for clients, we kept running into this vacuum of information whenever we tried to analyse the free-to-play or mobile markets. The first few years were a slog, as it took a while to build the data set. Eventually, we managed to convince enough firms to get the ball rolling towards establishing a larger partner network.
Today, we collect monthly spending data on 48m digital gamers. Our team is 15 people strong, with research associates on the West Coast in the US and in Asia.
What is your methodology?
All of our data is at the transaction-level and includes value, average selling price, payment method and genre-specific information. It is modelled on what companies like GfK and NPD use for the retail-based market. The difference is that digital data is richer, but more complex and very fragmented. So rather than going through a few retail chains for everything, we've had to build it up through dozens of partnerships, one at a time. Consequently, we cannot yet report on a weekly basis and use a monthly release schedule instead.
What do you need from the UK games industry to help make this chart even more robust?
Research starts with definitions. We are looking for an open discussion with the UK games industry to help us set a research agenda specific to their needs.
When benchmarking, for instance, we must have the same definitions and taxonomy, or risk making crooked comparisons.
Because of our existing data set, we can play the role of objective arbiter and are not subject to the whims of any single publisher.
Why team up with UKIE?
Where we really connected with UKIE was on their commitment to understand the digital games market.
The shift towards digital distribution is perhaps the most important thing that has happened to the games industry in the past 20 years. It offers an incredible source of content innovation, but also operates very differently on the level of company organisation, business model and sustainability.
For us, UKIE was the best fit in bringing transparency to the UK games market.
What are your long-term ambitions for the chart?
We're trying to facilitate an industry-wide discussion. The publicly of circulating charts is only the beginning of that. We also have plans to organize an annual town hall-style meeting with UKIE members to share experiences and information.
"It is up to every game maker individually
to embrace what is clearly the inevitable future."
Joost van Dreunen, SuperData
Why do you feel publishers are reluctant to share their figures?
One key problem for the major publishers is that they tend to be wildly disorganised when it comes to internal information. That's not surprising since in the physical market it was the retailers that handled all the logistics of making a sale, offering discounts and keeping track of inventory.
Game companies, especially large ones, are currently facing a steep learning curve. Moreover, it is generally the major publishers that dominate the conversation, which is deeply influenced by the need to appease shareholders.
In our conversations, they make it obvious that they have a defensive strategy. But this goes against the current innovative momentum and forces the role onto someone else.
It's up to every game maker individually, of course, to embrace what is clearly the inevitable future for game design, development and distribution, or to take on an increasingly defensive position as the world around them changes.
Of the data you've seen so far, what has surprised you the most?
The spending. Across the board, regardless of platform, demographic, game genre, or market, the numbers are always higher than you'd expect. This is not to make any promises of golden mountains, but rather that there exists massive demand out there that will allow even obscure niche games to be sustainable.
That's ultimately the affordance of digital distribution: to connect game makers with a large enough audience to be financially viable, allowing people to share and play with others in a way that wasn't possible before.