Analyst: September software sales to soar 30 percent

Lazard Capital Markets' Colin Sebastian sees Halo 3's runaway success buoying game and hardware sales for the month.

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Customarily a downtime for the gaming industry, the summer months still recorded month after month double-digit growth this year on the rising strength of the three next-generation consoles. Riding that trend into August, the industry posted nearly $1 billion in sales in the US alone, a 46 percent year-over-year increase, on the heels of Madden NFL 08 and the subsequent kickoff of the Great Games Bombardment 2007. The increase may have caught many by surprise, considering that several industry analysts timidly predicted a mere 12 percent year-over-year gain.

With NPD on the verge of releasing the industry's sales statistics for September, analysts are again taking a crack at the upcoming figures. In an industry note to investors today, Lazard Capital Markets' Colin Sebastian is expecting approximately 30 percent year-over-year growth in software sales, unsurprisingly led by Microsoft and Bungie's sci-fi shooter Halo 3.

Considering that Microsoft has already claimed $170 million in first-day sales alone for its shooter, that figure may seem modest. However, Sebastian notes that September 2006 itself was quite strong, having posted a 26 percent year-over-year increase from 2005. With Microsoft touting first-week worldwide revenues of $300 million for the game and some analysts pegging units sold at 4.4 million, Sebastian believes the bulk of Halo 3's draw came from the North American market. He also notes that a portion of the sales will be logged for the first part of October.

Sebastian also believes that Halo 3 will make a significant impact on the hardware charts--for Microsoft's console, at least. "We also expect higher Xbox 360 hardware sales in September boosted by price cuts and Halo 3 launch," he said.

Nintendo's and Sony's consoles, on the other hand, will maintain the status quo. He continued, "Demand for Nintendo's Wii hardware remains strong but sales are likely to reflect ongoing supply constraints--a trend likely to persist through the holiday period. For Sony's PS3, we do not anticipate a meaningful uptick in unit sales without a hardware price discount (or new SKU), or until the seasonal holiday sales ramp."

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