US retailers have seen six straight months of declining game software revenues, but analysts are largely in agreement that the streak will be broken this week, as the NPD Group is set to release September sales figures for the industry this Thursday. In a note to investors today, Pacific Crest Securities' Evan Wilson expected those sales to be up 10 percent for the month, but he added that the gains may be short-lived.
"October will likely return to a modest year-over-year decline," Wilson wrote. "After an initial round of checks for October's NPD data, we expect a small year-over-year decline."
He cited the shifting of music games like Guitar Hero away from the late October launch of previous installments and into September as one major factor in his estimate. Despite that, he acknowledged a handful of expected October hits like Uncharted 2, Wii Fit Plus, Forza 3, and DJ Hero as titles that should mitigate the shifting of Guitar Hero to September and keep any downturn in sales from being too large. Wilson said even with a shrinking October, growth for the full fourth quarter is possible. But with the abundance of games delayed into early 2010, he expects growth to really pick up in the first quarter of next year.
Getting back to September sales, Wilson weighed in on a topic already discussed by his fellow analysts, the sales of Guitar Hero 5 versus those of The Beatles: Rock Band. While his counterparts at Wedbush Morgan Securities and Electronic Entertainment Design and Research had The Beatles solidly outselling Guitar Hero 5 for the month, Wilson expected a little more from Activision's flagship rhythm franchise and a lot less from the Fab Four. Wilson estimates that Guitar Hero 5 sold 850,000 copies in September, compared to The Beatles: Rock Band's 650,000.