"An occasional bad report from NPD, which measures a sliver of what's actually happening in gaming, gives people an erroneous impression," Gibeau tells Games Industry International. "My point is it's an irrelevant measure on the industry. It's totally irrelevant. We don't even really look at it internally anymore."
NPD reports track retail games sales from stores such as GameStop and Wal-Mart, but don't provide a comparable breakdown of digital sales. In Q4 2012, EA saw digital sales generate $419 million, while packaged goods made more than double that, with $949 million.
David McQuillan, president of NPD Games, is "surprised" by Gibeau's comments for a few reasons, provided in a statement to Joystiq. The first: "While we will not comment on the specifics on our long-standing relationship with EA, we can say with confidence that we have daily dealings with all of our major publisher clients. And we know for a fact they're using the data."
The second reason McQuillan cites is the continued prevalence of physical sales, making up 56 percent of industry sales in 2011. "The current games industry is still largely rooted in retail and any industry player involved with AAA content simply can't take their eye away from the retail environment," he writes.
NPD Group's David Riley adds, "We do cover digital. Granted, it's not near the level of granularity that we provide via physical point of sale, but physical POS is still huge and needs to be taken seriously. In my opinion, you do a disservice to our industry when you dismiss the value of retail sales research."
EA's Digital sales are growing rapidly, Gibeau says, and EA is focused on riding that streaming, cloud-based, downloadable wave into the future, with or without NPD sales reports.
"We're going to be a 100 percent digital company, period," he says. "It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable."