Analyst: November game sales down 16 percent

Wedbush Morgan blames Xbox 360 "supply/demand imbalance" and lack of GTA-level blockbusters for year-on-year software dropoff.


The NPD Funworld numbers aren't out until next Thursday, but that hasn't stopped the leading lights of the game-analyst world from getting their market-prognostication on. First out of the gate was Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter, who predicted that $715 million in game software was sold in North America in November 2005.

While that may seem like a kingly sum, it is in fact a 16-percent drop from November 2004's $849 million in software sales. That month saw a slew of wildly popular releases, including Halo 2, Half-Life 2, and Metal Gear Solid 3. It also came only three days after the launch of the second-highest-grossing game of all time, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

November 2005 did see a number of high-profile current-gen releases, including Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, Star Wars: Battlefront II, WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2006, Mario Kart DS, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, and Half-Life 2 for the Xbox. However, with the exception of 50 Cent: Bulletproof and Gun, hardly any were original properties. This worries Pachter, who is "concerned that consumers are uninspired by the sequel-driven slate of new games released this quarter."

What about the Xbox 360 launch, you say? Pachter counter-intuitively says that the launch of the next-gen console is actually a factor in the lagging game sales, "in part due to a supply/demand imbalance for the Xbox 360." That said, 360 games such Perfect Dark Zero, Call of Duty 2, and Project Gotham Racing 3 dominated the NPD console charts during the last week of November, meaning the final numbers might be less gloomy.

As for individual publisher's fates during November, Pachter predicts that Electronic Arts will come out on top with $125 million, down 6 percent from the same period last year. Far behind on the analyst's list is Activision with $65 million, a modest 3-percent increase over last year. THQ is pegged to get the bronze, with $40, a 44-percent decline thanks to an absence of Pixar movie tie-in titles.

According to Pachter, Take-Two Interactive will take fourth with $30 million--44 percent below its San Andreas-bolstered November 2004 take. Behind it will be Atari with $25 million (+2 percent) followed by Midway and its $12 million haul (+15 percent). Bringing up the rear of Pachter's list is Majesco and its paltry $4 million take, a whopping 71-percent decrease compared to last year.

But while informed, analyst notes are not infallible. In fact, Wedbush Morgan's November report admits that its previous report was overly optimistic. "Our most recent forecast predicted US console and PC software sales growth of 6 percent for 2005, and we now acknowledge that our forecast is too high in light of the weaker-than-expected October and likely weak November sell-through data." The company now expects overall 2005 sales to be "flat to slightly positive."

Wedbush Morgan also estimates that, as of October 2005, there are 86 million total current-generation consoles and handhelds in the US. Speaking of current-gen machines, the report also said to look out for a PlayStation 2 price cut early next year.

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