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Google study: User searches can predict 84% of video game sales


Add video game industry sales analyst to the list of professions that Google’s ubiquitous search engine might wipe off the map. Like travel agents and record store clerks before them, the search data compiled by Google’s pervasive tools—used in everything from your web browser to your television—offers the same predicative and analytic insights as a market analyst. According to a new study compiled by Google, searches in its engine can predict 84 percent of video game sales.

Understanding the Modern Gamer” compiled and analyzed “hundreds of millions” of searches related to the top 20 best-selling video games throughout 2010 and 2011. These searches came from both web browsers as well as mobile devices. The marquee finding in the study is that searches related to games in the ten months surrounding their release—through the online promotion cycle of trailers, previews, advertisements, and post-release promotion through DLC and further advertising—can predict 84 percent of those games’ sales.

“[Our] data demonstrates that 84 percent of sales can be predicted by all clicks during the 10 month launch cycle,” reads the passage relating AdWords clicks to individual game sales, “We used the regression coefficient from our analysis to create a predictive model and found that is a game accrues 250,000 clicks in the 10 months around launch, it will likely sell between 2 and 4 million units in the first four months after release.”

“The ever present relationship between gamer and game may be digital, but it has implications for real-world sales. There is a quantifiable link between what people search for and what they buy that enables us to predict game sales.”

It’s no great insight to discover that something that is popular by consumer interest is likely to sell well. What’s impressive about Google’s data is its accuracy. The study does acknowledge that other mitigating factors—namely television advertising, word of mouth, and the actual quality of the game—that need to be taken into consideration in the next round of study to improve the predictive quality of its data, but 84 percent based on searches alone is impressive.

There’s other interesting data to be found in the study, particularly the fact that mobile searches still account for the minority of interest surrounding a game. Just 1 in 5 buy searches—that is searches that include language related to actually purchasing the game—are made via mobile, meaning that PCs are still user’s primary tools for gathering info and shopping online. “Our data validates the belief that gamers, similar to all users, leverage mobile devices as secondary screens.”

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