Analyst: 4.2M Halo 3s already at retail

Goldman Sachs analysts project a massive launch for Bungie Studios' first-person shooter that should push Microsoft's Xbox division into "slight profitability."

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Halo 3 launches this week, and it doesn't take a financial analyst to tell you it's going to be big. However, a financial analyst could be helpful if you want to know exactly how big the game's launch will be.

In a company update on Microsoft today, Goldman Sachs analysts Sarah Friar and Frederick Grieb predicted that Microsoft will have shipped a mighty 4.2 million copies of Halo 3 into the retail channel by the end of the month. That's a big-enough launch shipment for more than a third of the Xbox 360's 11.6 million global user base to pick up a copy.

Those raw numbers don't measure up to those posted by the launch of Halo 2, the analysts said, but there were a number of reasons for the prior game to have a stronger launch. For one thing, the original Xbox had a larger installed user base of almost 20 million when Halo 2 came out in November of 2004. Halo 2 sold nearly 2.4 million copies on its first day on the market, and Friar and Grieb estimate that Microsoft had shipped 7.5 million copies by the end of the year, which would have accounted for 38 percent of the installed user base.

The first quarter of Microsoft's fiscal year ends just five days after Halo 3's launch, and Friar and Grieb said the game will contribute about $170 million in revenue to the company's entertainment and devices division, which would push it into "slight profitability" for the quarter. If that happens, it would be the first profitable quarter for Microsoft's gaming segment since it launched the original Xbox.

The black ink won't stop there, according to the analysts. They believe the Xbox 360 will maintain its momentum after the Halo release due to the underperforming PlayStation 3 and the exclusive downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto IV.

For more on the game, check out the complete coverage at GameSpot's Halo 3 Launch Center.

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