Analysts predict May sales shrinkage

Monthly NPD sales report expected to show first three-month US software sales slide since 2006; UFC Undisputed, EA Sports Active projected as top new releases.

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With blockbusters like Grand Theft Auto IV and Mario Kart Wii enjoying million-selling launches in April of 2008, there was little doubt among game industry analysts that overall game sales for April of 2009 would come up short year-over-year. With the industry-tracking NPD Group preparing to release its US retail sales for May later this week, analysts sent out investor notes with their predictions, and once again they are in agreement that sales will be down.

Overall game sales may have been bloodied, but analysts think games like EA Sports Active and UFC: Undisputed did just fine.
Overall game sales may have been bloodied, but analysts think games like EA Sports Active and UFC: Undisputed did just fine.

Wedbush Morgan Securities' Michael Pachter was the bear of the bunch, projecting software sales down 17 percent for the month. Electronic Entertainment Design and Research analyst Jesse Divnich pegged a 15 percent slide for games, noting that this would be the first three-month span of consecutive year-over-year losses for the industry since the first quarter of 2006.

Pacific Crest Securities' Evan Wilson put the number at 12 percent, due largely to May 2008's continued sales of the aforementioned blockbusters and the launch of enduring chart-topper Wii Fit. Pachter also seized on that dynamic duo, saying the two titles accounted for 26 percent of total game sales in May 2008.

Janco Partners' Mike Hickey was the most optimistic of the lot, saying software sales would be down just 7 percent year-over-year. That optimism is apparently fleeting, as Hickey also cautioned that June could see "a deep contraction," with sales down somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 percent from the same month in 2008, which saw hits in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots for the PlayStation 3 and Guitar Hero: On Tour for the DS.

The quartet of analysts was also in agreement over which titles performed the best during the month. UFC 2009 Undisputed and EA Sports Active--which has already sold 600,000 units worldwide--were singled out by all the analysts as among the month's biggest hits, with three of four also mentioning the first-party games Infamous and/or Punch-Out.

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