Games industry hiding behind the figures

18 01 2007

Jon Jordan “What I found significant was the headline ELSPA chose for its press release of the wonderful news – “2006 interactive software sales thrash previous years”.

Now, this must count as a classic case of being economical with the truth. In term of their value, sales clearly didn’t thrash previous years. An extra £10 million is chickenfeed, considering software sales in the week prior to Christmas were worth £91.5 million ($180 million).

The total number of games sold – 65.1 million units – was up significantly, by 7 percent compared to 2005 however.

Whether this counts as ‘thrashing’ remains open to debate though. OK, so I’m being a bit fussy. I’m a columnist. That’s what I do. Nevertheless, I think this behaviour hides a wider issue; that the games industry lacks confidence when dealing with the non-gaming world.

Maybe because we’re constantly being hit over the head with complaints about violence and addiction, the powers that be only feel safe communicating from a position of strength, which in the lack of any cultural confidence, generally means pride in commercial success. Hence obvious commercial success needs to be manipulated, whether supported by evidence or not.

Of course, in this case, all that was needed was a bit of analysis. Both 2005 (where UK software sales by value rose 0.7 percent), and 2006 can be counted as transitional years in which everyone expected sales to be flat, at best. That sales are up, even slightly, is positive, but we can’t expect the wider media to understand that if we don’t provide the context for them.

And if we don’t, the result will be stories about games being “bigger than films” and 2006 “thrashing 2005″; both examples of how to lose a kernel of truth in a tissue of white lies.”

spot on as ever

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