So no one has any idea how much most digital games sell

The drumbeat of doom for Big Games has grown louder and faster this fall, as a mediocre crop of AAA titles fails to distract from dwindling sales. No one really knows how severe the decline of the industry is, though, because there is no way for publishers and the media to tabulate and compare digital sales figures:

While digital retailers provide information back to publishers on the performance of their own titles, the publishers don’t see competitive title performance. They can’t benchmark as a result. What is good velocity? What is a good price point? What is the right discount to spur sales without leaving money on the table? What is the revenue mix for a given title between physical and digital and how does that compare to the competition.

While this is an annoyance for journalists and potentially a money-loser for some publishers who don’t know exactly how to price their products, it’s potentially fatal to indie devs who have no comparative data, just a sense that the digital space is booming:

“It’s very destructive,” Wardell said, stressing that the damage isn’t confined to the console and PC space. “We’ve interviewed people who were developing for Android and iOS who thought that there was a gold rush. And they make their game or their app, and it’s pretty good, but it sells dozens of copies. No one realizes that a lot of these apps that come out sell tiny numbers of copies… So they just put a year of their life into something that sold basically nothing.”

Like any frontier, digital games distribution holds immense promise and an overriding sense of opportunity. Like any frontier, it seems, you can’t really trust the stories; you have to see what it’s like when you get there. The beneficiaries of this opacity, unsurprisingly, are “publishers who have already discovered what sells and where”; the big guys.
This argues for a centralized database of indie sales numbers, something that small developers can pay a small fee to consult so they can price, market, and distribute their games accordingly.