After months of steady and significant year-over-year improvements, the US game industry saw virtually no growth in software sales for the month of October. Some analysts had been expecting a double-digit percentage jump for the month, but the total take for software sales was up less than 1 percent over October 2005.
Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter is undaunted by the flat month. With the November numbers expected to be released by the industry-tracking NPD Group later this week, Pachter told investors this morning he expects sales to reach $785 million, a 12 percent increase over November 2005.
With Pachter predicting 23 games selling 100,000 copies or more during the month, the list of titles fueling sales is a long one. Specifically, Pachter expected The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Final Fantasy XII, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Need for Speed Carbon, Call of Duty 3, Guitar Hero II, and WWE SmackDown! vs. Raw 2007 to be among the biggest earners for the month, along with "a slew" of unnamed PlayStation 3 and Wii launch titles. One game he didn't expect to top the charts was Electronic Arts' long-awaited and poorly reviewed Superman Returns, which Pachter expects failed to break the 100,000 mark despite being released on a variety of platforms.
Pachter expects the industry to continue growing through March, with the increase in next-gen software sales more than offsetting the fall-off from the older consoles. However, he also warns that it might not keep up much longer than that. Once supplies of the PS3 and Wii catch up to demand for the systems (something Pachter doesn't expect to happen until after April 2007), he thinks that hardware sales will taper off quicker than they did during the last generation of consoles.
"In our view, once hardcore gamers have obtained their next-generation consoles, the higher average prices will be an impediment to rapid sell-through, and we expect cycle-to-cycle declines of 10 percent or more to persist through the summer of 2007," Pachter said.
Combine that with the previous summer's average year-over-year sales growth of 20 percent and Pachter says the industry could have a hard time sustaining its growth through the summer of 2007.