After three straight months of declining game software sales, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter believes Bungie's Halo: Reach finally pushed the industry into positive territory for September. The prediction was included in a note Pachter sent to investors today detailing his expectations for the NPD Group's September sales figures (set to be released Thursday).
Based on the strength of Halo: Reach, Pachter projected US retail software sales for September to hit $665 million, a 2.4 percent increase over September 2009's total. That increase would be larger were it not for expected declines in the music genre. While top 10 sales performances by Guitar Hero 5 and Rock Band: The Beatles last year helped bolster the flagging genre, Pachter believes Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock managed to sell only 100,000 units for the month. Overall, Pachter expected rhythm genre sales to be down more than $100 million for the month, from $116 million to just $15 million.
Beyond Halo: Reach, Pachter expects the month's best-selling new releases to include Dead Rising 2 and FIFA Soccer 11. As for Sony's PlayStation Move, he predicted "modest" launch sales for the PS3's motion-sensing controller.
Pachter also believes Sid Meier's Civilization V on the PC sold through 350,000 copies, although those numbers won't be included in the console- and handheld-only NPD gaming charts. September numbers will also benefit from continued strong sales of Madden NFL 11 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Pachter believes, with the analyst expecting EA's pigskin sim to have moved 725,000 copies during the month.
While Pachter didn't put a dollar amount on hardware sales, he did project the number of consoles and handhelds sold to be down 18 percent. He was particularly pessimistic on console sales for the near future, as August and September of 2009 saw price cuts for all major systems, driving late 2009's hardware sales up significantly. Sales of Sony's Move and Microsoft's Kinect Xbox 360 camera may compensate somewhat, but Pachter noted that only the hardware bundles will count toward the NPD Group's hardware sales total. The industry-tracking group will count Microsoft's $150 Kinect camera and Sony's $100 Move controller starter kit as accessory sales rather than hardware.
September may be as good as the industry gets for the rest of the year. Pachter said he expects October sales to be up "only slightly," with November and December sales both sliding year-over-year. For the full year, he predicts console and handheld sales to end up down, with those losses offset by growth in the PC gaming market thanks to Blizzard Entertainment's Starcraft II and World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.