Data on the Web: VGChartz vs. NPD

After writing my first post, Equity Research in the Age of Web 2.0, I received a lot of comments asking really good questions. Most of the questions from readers asked about real world examples. So here’s a taste.

In the world of securities research, in general, we talk about consensus sources. These are sources that everyone looks to as an arbiter of what may be happening in a market or industry. In the macro economic world, figures released by the US government, (measures like labor statistics or GDP) are used by the market as a whole to judge where the economy may be headed and where it has been. In certain industries, independent benchmarks are used to define the prospects of an industry or the individual performance of the firms involved. A great example of this is the NPD Group.

The NPD Group, provides pay services that collect information from various retailers and then in turn creates a measure of sales for many product categories. Usually the reports are done on a monthly basis coming out about 2 weeks after the previous months close. I am pretty familiar with their reports and most equity analysts and the market use them as the benchmark. Usually an analyst will write a report in which they predict sales for a particular company in relation to the data provided by NPD. The differences in an equity analyst’s view of NPD and his own projection usually leads to an upside or downside surprise in a equity’s price, once the NPD reports are published and received by the market.

For the video game sector, NPD produces the benchmark measures for North American game and console sales. Analysts like Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan, and Colin Sebastian of Lazard, create, on a regular basis their monthly forecasts of where NPD will come in at. Over the last couple of years a new entrant has entered the picture with different aims from NPD; enter VGChartz. By all accounts this newcomer is causing a headache for NPD and their for pay service.

VGchartz uses a similar methodology as NPD, in trending and forecasting game sales through representative samples.
Here is a excerpt from their About Us page.

“With a growing team of analysts, over ten years of experience and with over twenty years of historical data at our disposal, VG Chartz should be seen as a very powerful prediction tool for industry and casual user alike in looking ahead to the future market and making educated and informed predictions. Using our powerful and proprietary graphing and analysis tools, users can query the extensive sales database and compare the performance of hardware and software sales over time between different formats, genres, titles and manufacturers.”

The main difference between NPD & VGChartz is that, VGChartz is a user-based community of video game enthusiasts/experts and NPD is a market research company. Their business models also differ, NPD is a for-pay service and VGChartz looks to be supported mostly by paid advertising. While VGChartz makes their North American data available on a weekly basis along with data from Japan and Europe. NPD is focused on North America, and their data is released monthly.

So if you’re an investor interested in this sector or an analyst — the first question you should ask yourself “is the data from VGChartz good?” My answer is, after looking at and using VGChartz data for the last two years, it’s quality. But please in the Age of Web 2.0 form your own opinion.
Here are my reasons:

  • The data is weekly as opposed to monthly — time is a big advantage. (I saw Sony’s changing future thanks to VGChartz much quicker than if I’d waited for monthly numbers)
  • It is the only place to get as close as possible to worldwide figures on console & game sales.
  • The best part of using or working with VGChartz data is that they give you their biases upfront along with a comparison of their numbers against NPD and key analysts like Michael Pachter.
  • There is community that has arisen around the numbers; that is willing to have an open exchange about the short comings, and methodologies in VGChartz’s multiple forums. You really don’t get that with NPD.

It has to drive NPD nuts that a site like VGChartz can create a presence and provide high quality information with a completely different business model. I am sure in the NPD mindset, the thought of an outsider competing with them in this space was completely unanticipated. This was a theme that was echoed at our last Money:Tech. On one hand we had Reuters’ Devin Wenig talking to Tim O’Reilly saying he didn’t “… see direct competition from consumer media (including Google), arguing that professionals need richer, more curated information sources.” And on the other hand, we had Sean Park of Six Paradigm talking about grabbing high quality useful data, as a buy sider, from consumer-oriented services like Yahoo! Finance and Google.

The one thing you can count on is this, smart professionals and investors will always look to high quality data sources that are leading indicators for consensus. If I can find a piece of data, or a source that is a good predictor for what a benchmark will do, I will use it no matter where it comes from. Time and proven results are the final judge. If it happens to be free, so much the better.

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