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Valve keeping Steam sales data private, out of aggregated charts


Valve is deeply skeptical of any proposed "scorecard" attempting to depict digital game sales, according to biz dev director Jason Holtman, who manages Steam, the company's lucrative online distribution platform for PC and Mac. "If you look back at the way retail charts have been made, they have been proven to be telling an inaccurate story," Holtman told MCV. "They apparently had shown how the PC format was dying when it was actually thriving."

Market research firms in the business of tallying such consumer-spending, like NPD and Chart-Track, have begun to acknowledge the gross inadequacy of analyzing physical media sales alone, especially on the PC platform. Last summer, NPD raised a bright red flag when it reported on 2009 findings that physical and digital PC game-related sales were reaching parity. A few months later, the firm announced it was close to refining its reports to include digital sales. Easier said than done.

Some estimates suggest that more than half of all PC digital game sales are made through Steam, so clearly any outfit hoping to even begin to chart such data needs Valve on board. Seemingly shunning those requests, and those from publishers and developers, Holtman said that charting game sales is "less useful in the digital space."

"The idea of a chart is old," he added. "It came from people trying to aggregate disaggregated information." In the digital space, especially, sales are spread across a vast number of disassociated retailers. Perhaps then, Valve's skepticism stems from the seeming impossibility of compiling an accurate, total figure -- or maybe, as Holtman implied, Valve just sees such a figure as an antiquated measuring stick. And really, who's business is it to know how many copies of a game have been sold?

Holtman insisted that Steam's "rapid and perfected information" about sales is only relevant to its partners on a per-game basis. "The point is, it's not super important for a publisher or developer to know how well everyone is doing. 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."

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