As physical media looks more and more like a dusty relic of yesterday's PC games business, UK gaming trade body ELSPA has announced plans to provide a UK download chart to track sales of PC games online.
ELSPA currently provides a weekly retail chart, covering retail sales of PC and console titles, as well as an overall chart. However, with many PC gamers choosing to buy their titles from download services such as Steam, the traditional chart is starting to look pretty rusty as a representative snapshot of PC game sales.
The trade body hasn't yet announced when the first download chart will appear, but says it's currently working with Chart-Track on a closed beta chart that will be made available when all the concerned parties are satisfied with the process of data collection.
Rather than getting the information directly from download sites, however, ELSPA has instead decided to compile the information from data provided by a working group of games publishers.
The current list includes big players such as Ubisoft, THQ, Sega, NCsoft, Mastertronic, Kalypso Media, Midas Interactive and Square Enix. In addition to these firms, ELSPA says that three other "major publishers" are going to announce their involvement with the chart "imminently."
However, according to ELSPA all the companies involved have committed to providing sales data from third-party resellers. This, says ELSPA, will help allay "fears that data from Steam would be missing from this chart."
ELSPA's chairman Andy Payne explained that the more companies who join the working group, the more accurate chart will be. "I would call for other members to join the group as soon as they can and not miss out in helping to form and shape this important development for all of us," said Payne. He added that ELSPA is in the process of, "reaching out to TIGA and their membership" to get more games companies on board.
While it's great to see an official chart that's much more representative of real game sales, it still doesn't look like it's going to be a completely accurate snapshot. After all, a lot of money in the PC gaming business comes from subscriptions to massively multiplayer online games, which will be difficult to incorporate into a standard chart.
We also don't completely understand why Valve isn't listed among the involved companies yet, and why ELSPA is getting its information from publishers rather than download sites.
After all, Steam provides a regularly updated top ten chart, and sells a number of independent titles, which we assume won't be recognised by the chart unless the developer is a member of the working group.
We've asked ELSPA why it's decided to go down this route for compiling the download chart, and we'll update you if and when we get any more information.