Steam Boss Blasts Idea of Digital Sales Charts

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Steam Boss Blasts Idea of Digital Sales Charts

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A big, inaccurate picture of the industry isn't really much use to anyone, says Valve's director of business development.

Jason Holtman, who, amongst other things, heads up the digital sales platform Steam, says that he isn't about to start handing over data so that analysts and publishers can compile digital sales lists. In fact, he thinks that doing so would be a backwards step for the industry.

Holtman said that charts were an old idea, and were born of people trying to gather information from a variety of sources and collate it into a useful whole. He felt that it was much more useful for publishers and developers to know how their games were doing, rather than an incomplete look at the overall picture. "If you look back at the way retail charts have been made," he said. "They have been proven to be telling an inaccurate story ... They apparently had shown how the PC format was dying when it was actually thriving."

"It's not super important for a publisher or developer to know how well everyone is doing," he added. "What's important to know is exactly how your game is doing - why it's climbing and why it's falling. Your daily sales, your daily swing, your rewards for online campaign number three. That's what we provide."

Holtman's position seems a little strange; he acknowledges how important accurate, up-to-date data is, but then downplays the importance of the bigger picture. It's certainly true that sales charts paint only the most simple of pictures and don't really take context into account, but - if used properly - that information still has a great deal of value.

Source: MCV

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I think that's a good point. Publishers nowadays are more concerned with "the money I COULD be making" rather than "the money I'm making right now", and it's not a good thing.

Probably a good idea - might stop this culture of people calling a game a failure if it only has 2 million sales compared to the game at the top of the charts with 10 million.

interesting, I dont care for numbers anyway, not sure what it does for consumers.

As a Data Analyst, I really cant see much sense in what he is saying. I work in an industry, which requires us to look at not just out own big picture, but those around us in the same business too (Which is Insurance)

You need both internal, and external data in order to plan profitability, and to see the greater swings in the market, and how they might be affecting your own cycles, and developmnents.

Who is selling well, with what, and how are they doing it - All are important questions, which, without a whole picture, and not taking any essense from it, cannot be properly achieved.

I believe he is more trying to keep there cards close to protect themselves, so others cannot see whats working well, for, arguably, the largest online digital retailer for gaming

i agree with him, you know what these charts always lead to? "the same"
the same damn fps, same weapons, same enemies all aimed towards the same audience, all of which do not improve on the previous game.

innovation is so badly needed in the industry, if indie devs followed these trends, we would not have minecraft, eufloria or mount and blade.

take for example bad company 1 vs bad company 2, BC1 was relatively original, still followed many FPS traits but had interesting, non-linear gameplay. compare that to BC2's linearity and you can see the unwanted shift.

Jaredin:
As a Data Analyst, I really cant see much sense in what he is saying. I work in an industry, which requires us to look at not just out own big picture, but those around us in the same business too (Which is Insurance)

You need both internal, and external data in order to plan profitability, and to see the greater swings in the market, and how they might be affecting your own cycles, and developmnents.

That is a completely different industry though, when publishers get too caught up in what the #1 selling game is we get what I like to call the COD fiasco, stagnation.

It is never unclear where the big money is in terms of genres, but the thing about the games industry is that quality and original games are more important than what genre or blueprint they are created from.

Logan Westbrook:
"If you look back at the way retail charts have been made," he said. "They have been proven to be telling an inaccurate story ... They apparently had shown how the PC format was dying when it was actually thriving."

Now can I plead with console owners once again to stfu?

What a load of bullshit. Information is power, and by withholding it they're just making sure this power is only their's. Valve/Steamworks are cool, but that doesn't mean that they never do any dick moves, such as this.

Try starting a business based on Steam sales when you can't get any relevant data from their platform to reassure investors. I'm gonna bet 5 to 1 that you won't get any results. No wonder indie games are made by so few people: you can't make a team if you can't pay them a salary, and you can't pay a salary without being either A- Be rich yourself and ready to burn it all on a risky project, or B- Get funding from investors/publishers. The B- option is the only viable option for 99,9% of the population, and these require data before jumping into a project.

EDIT: If my games make it to Steam, I'm gonna give my sales number freely to whoever wants them.

It may not benefit the publishers, but it would benefit me. It seems like they're trying to hide something.

On the one hand I agree. On the other hand though, the big picture is very important for investors and a clear picture might persuade them to invest more in PC gaming.

However, I do like the fact that smaller developers and indie developers are being given a chance now that most developers have gone multiplatform, so, keep doing what you're doing.

GeorgW:
It may not benefit the publishers, but it would benefit me. It seems like they're trying to hide something.

Enormous profits? They did say that Left 4 Dead sales increased by 3000% in a sale once.

PC Gaming... THRIVING!!?!?!

What madness is this!?! What trickery is at work here?!?!

They must not have heard that PC gaming is dying and has been since 1985!

How... odd?

I agree with the notion 'knowledge is power', I can see where they have a point that publishers may try and copy whoever peaks in the sales, but to not release any sales information at all?

I love reading through VGchartz to see how many copies were sold of certain games.

I hope this information does eventually become available, it seems silly to hide it.

I can see both sides - the market would obviously love to have digital sales numbers for the all the traditional reasons, but by showing what games are doing the best there becomes the obvious draw to emulate them, leading to the market stagnation we have now.

Arguably, though, by only having store sales when so much of PC sales is digital, console player buying trends could lead the market, which could be detrimental to the industry in the long term... for reasons of opinion about the CoD playing masses that would just incite a flame war ;)

Of course, Steam could just be being cynical and looking to exploit their market position, but I can't really see how it would benefit them. Maybe I'm not corporate enough...

The man who has access to all of steams online sales data doesn't want to share this data? What an unspeakable concept!

Astalano:

GeorgW:
It may not benefit the publishers, but it would benefit me. It seems like they're trying to hide something.

Enormous profits? They did say that Left 4 Dead sales increased by 3000% in a sale once.

That sale was likely the game for $1 ;) Much like when they had TF2 for 1 cent! Ah Steam, you never cease to amaze!

if it weren't for sales charts, we would likely not see every fps copying cod because they wouldn't know how successful it is. However is steam released sales data, then the PC platform would likely be the lead one for more games. Hmmm.

He just doesn't want us to see that Valve games aren't in the top 10 of Steam's own sales.

He might also like to relish in the irony of lambasting the sales charts for being inaccurate while refusing to release the data that would go a long way to rectifying that. I know I am.

Cousin_IT:
He just doesn't want us to see that Valve games aren't in the top 10 of Steam's own sales.

He might also like to relish in the irony of lambasting the sales charts for being inaccurate while refusing to release the data that would go a long way to rectifying that. I know I am.

the top sellers are there: http://store.steampowered.com/

:) Portal 2 is obviously number 1 at the moment. I'm surprised crysis 2 is still holding on at number 3 though.

I'm not sure: One the one hand, yes they should pay attention to their own games and not worry about the competition. On the other hand, it pays to know what's selling.

Logan Westbrook:
"If you look back at the way retail charts have been made," he said. "They have been proven to be telling an inaccurate story ... They apparently had shown how the PC format was dying when it was actually thriving."

That's because they weren't giving them that information.

Earlier in time, before the rise of Digital Distribution, I can understand. But nobody on the PC side, including you Mr. STEAM, is giving them the information to prove otherwise. So when you see that PC sales have been declining, you're seeing the physical sales go down. It's a two-part commitment, dude, they need the data and you supply it.

I bet if you showed the number of PC games sold overall online on STEAM, with all the sales, I wouldn't be surprised if LIVE or PSN went a similar route to rake in the dough.

I don't really get what this guy is saying, while publishers/developers shouldn't rely on charts to tell them everything, it does give a sense of who's doing what and how well. Knowledge is power, after all.

Its way protecting the perceived value of the company and a way of hiding the margins they charge on steam. If sale digital sales figures were published it wouldn't take too much working out what margins rivals are charged by steam. If a competitor is getting a better deal, steam would be under pressure to cut their margins to lowest deal offered to the big publishers. The cost of this would be passed on to the indie and smaller publishers to maintain the same level of profitably.

Bobzer77:

Now can I plead with console owners once again to stfu?

Im A console owner and I play Pc games not all of us hate the PC

Hopefully the bean counters don't get too uppity that Valve won't be letting them count their beans.

It seems to me that his problem is with how people inaccurately use the information rather than the information itself. In which case he should be promoting how to more holistically utilize it instead of telling everyone it shouldn't be utilized. The situation of PC games thriving despite the contrary being extrapolated is a perfect basis for such a study.

I agree. I read reviews if I am unsure of buying a game - I don't check sales data. Example; I have never purchased a Call of Duty game, yet last Christmas I played a family members and was glad that I didn't buy it "just because" everyone else did.

Developers need to listen to what consumers are saying, not what they are paying.

Here is my problem with charts. Game A sells 10 million units. Company X sees this and would like their own creation, Game B to do just as well. But how do you do that? What is it about Game A that made it so popular? Better copy everything that Game A did just to be sure.

And so it goes for Companies Q, R, S & T. Welcome to "like God of War, but..."

Bobzer77:

Logan Westbrook:
"If you look back at the way retail charts have been made," he said. "They have been proven to be telling an inaccurate story ... They apparently had shown how the PC format was dying when it was actually thriving."

Now can I plead with console owners once again to stfu?

Gotta love biased sweeping comments towards a whole community made by one person from another community. You act as if only the console crowd says that and that they all believe it. It's completely impossible for someone to be a fan of both console and PC gaming, isn't it?

'Scuse me while I go fire up my copy of HL2 on my PC, then play some DA2 on my Xbox, then some Minecraft or Titan Quest on my PC follow by a little Pixel Junk Shooter 2.

Ah, never change escapist users, never change...

As a gamer I want companies to see how well the PC sells as a platform because we're currently getting the dick end of the stick and I feel the sales numbers are likely surprising.

I agree with Mr Holtman, while a company needs to know which strategies where affective and how well they did with a given release, knowing what everyone else did is kind of irrelevant, it just engenders situations like the MMO market, where instead of concentrating on how well their title is doing, player retention etc, they are looking at WoW going "why aren't we doing that?"

All it brings us is bad clones of games that weren't that great to start with.

Sorry, why can't we do both? I mean PC gaming is getting a bad rep because we aren't as high on charts, which is because you guys won't release the numbers. Give the companies a reason to concentrate on what PC is doing and you'll make your platform thrive.

I'm a little confused as to how accurate sales numbers would create a "me too" market. Currently Steam offers users the list of top 10 best sellers, does that not lead to a "me too" market? The Crysis 2 guys know how many sales they are getting, and they know their in 3rd

TheComfyChair:

The top sellers are there: http://store.steampowered.com/

:) Portal 2 is obviously number 1 at the moment. I'm surprised crysis 2 is still holding on at number 3 though.

But Portal 2 is number 1 (is anybody shocked by this?) So the Crysis 2 guys know that Portal is selling >X number of copies, where X would be the known quantity of Crysis 2 units sold.

This holds true for 9 out of the 10 companies on the top 10 list (okay, slightly less since 3 of the top 10 games are Valve games) and a lot of those companies like to brag about their overall numbers, meaning that analysts can usually provide a pretty good picture of how well Steam titles are selling.

Then of course, I could be totally wrong, and the analysts could be totally wrong because they aren't getting accurate Data because Steam is withholding it and thinks Data is bad since Data is clearly inaccurate... Okay yeah that was sarcastic, I do enjoy the irony though, as already pointed out "We don't think sales data is useful, since it points to the PC market dying, but our data, you know that data that we're withholding? shows that the PC market is thriving"

I'm glad he's taking that stance, actually. Sales charts are part of the reason that we see so many uncreative games; because people just go with what they know sells. It'd be nice if physical game vendors took the same approach.

I've always wondered just how many copies of Steam's top selling games were sold to be in that TOP 10 list.
For example, Modern Warfare 2 sat at the top of the steam sales list for almost a year without getting any kind of discount, so just how many of them were sold daily/yearly to achieve that? I'm guessing this data would give a much needed improvement to the pc community's image.

I'm pretty sure he's discussing the bias inherent in sales charts. Things like Nielsen ratings or NPD numbers that don't necessarily take into account all forms of product sales or audience coverage. You'd also have to take into account non public companies who don't need to share accurate information.

He's probably right that it's a waste of time to support an inaccurate publication as it would likely do as much harm as good.

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