NPD retracts November numbers

Industry research group yanks monthly report, citing "overstated information."

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For the past several days, clouds have been gathering over the gaming world. That's because late last week, several major analysts predicted November 2005 had seen a major year-on-year drop in game sales. Some estimates went as far to forecast a whopping 16-percent drop in sales, thanks to a lack of blockbuster titles like Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Today, though, it appeared that the doom and gloom was premature. The market research firm NPD Group, considered the top statistics firm in the game business, issued a report that said the sector saw only a modest 3.6-percent year-on-year decrease in software sales. The report said the month saw $818 million in games sold from October 30 to November 26, versus $849 million in software sales during the same period in 2004.

The NPD report also claimed to have the first official numbers of hardware sales for the Xbox 360, which hit North America on November 22. According to NPD, approximately 332,000 units of the next-gen consoles were sold from November 22 to November 26, when the report ends--a total of five days on the market. By contrast, Sony's PSP, which launched in the US and Canada on March 24, sold around 602,000 units during its first seven days in stores.

However, within hours of its release, the report was promptly retracted by NPD. "It has come to our attention that the November 2005 video games data released today contained overstated information," read an e-mail sent out to NPD subscribers. The company said it would "review the reasons behind the overstated numbers immediately," but did not have an estimate as to when the corrected November figures would be released.

NPD's silence led to speculation on the part of analysts who had already received the report. One noticed that while the company usually claims to collect 63 percent of sales data, in November it claimed to collect 53 percent. He reasoned this was the cause of "dramatically higher" numbers than usual, and that when the corrected numbers are released, they will be much closer to the previous, pessimistic forecasts. It could also mean that Xbox 360 sales could come in under the 332,000-unit figure cited in the report.

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