One of the things that drives me nuts in the game industry is the lack of basic information. For example:
How many game stores are there? We don't know how many game stores there are. The industry can't even decide on how to classify a game store, so it's hard to get past some very basic steps. For example, when I analyzed the Wizards of the Coast website for my area, 66% of the stores listed are not what you would consider a game store. Is a Barnes & Nobles a game store? They carry D&D. Is a comic book store with a rack of Magic cards a game store? Is a Games Workshop store a game store? They only carry GW products. The estimate of the number of game stores is somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000. That's like taking a poll and saying you've got a margin of error of plus or minus a hundred percent. We know nothing. Distributors have an idea of how many stores there are, but they would have to compare data to get a real number. That won't happen.
What are the true industry sales numbers? I posted the ICV2 numbers the other day. The game store folks in their forum pretty much debunked them as highly speculative. Comics & Games Retailer (now defunct) used to publish stats that I know were WAGs (wild ass guesses). Distributors have some of this information, as do the larger manufacturers.
What percentage of games are sold online? Only about 7% of retail is done online when you consider national trends, but there's this perception that about 50% of games are sold this way. We don't really know. Some publishers can tell us their percentage of Amazon sales, but the picture gets complicated when you look at eBay and online retailers, most of which are fronts for brick and mortar stores. There's this perception in the industry that the most successful retailers have secret online presences. Nothing makes retailers more anxious than the specter of the encroaching Internet. Add zealot gamer price Nazi's to the mix, those who consider the Amazon or Thoughthammer price as the "THE Price," and you get even more anxiety.
When is game X coming out? Next to an online database of game stores, one of the other fruitless tasks I would like to see someone take on is a big board of game releases. You would think we retailers know when something is coming out, but it's not usually the case. Most of the time the manufacturers have no idea, and when they do post dates, there's no central way to find them. Some distributors have online ordering systems that let you find this information, but they're not always accurate or up-to-date. While I'm asking for impossible IT projects, how about a matrix of manufacturers charted with each distributor, including discounts.