January US game software sales down 4%, predicts Pachter

Wedbush analyst foresees holiday holdovers and newcomers Darksiders and Mass Effect 2 as top games; hardware sales pegged as dropping 1%, Wii on top…again.


Mass Effect 2
Wii Sports Resort

This Thursday, the NPD Group is expected to issue its report for US game sales for the month of January. As usual, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter has preempted the industry-research firm's date with his company's predictions about last month's performance.

Commander Shepard would like to be paid now.
Commander Shepard would like to be paid now.

On the hardware front, the ubiquitous analyst is prognosticating that sales will dip by 1 percent, with 1.975 million consoles and handhelds sold domestically during January. Despite possible post-holiday shortages, the Wii is pegged as the top platform with an estimated 555,000 units sold, followed by the DS with 525,000 units. Pachter predicts that 340,000 Xbox 360s were sold, just beating out the PlayStation 3's 330,000-unit total. The PSP is slotted for fifth place with 150,000 units, followed by the aging PlayStation 2 with just 75,000 units.

In terms of software, Pachter predicts $655 million in domestic game sales, down 4 percent year-over-year from January 2009's $683 million. The analyst partially pinned the blame for the year-on-year decline on ongoing shrinkage of the rhythm-game genre.

"We expect another precipitous decline in music genre sales to around $45 million compared to $82 million last January," he said. "The expected decline should account for more than 100 percent of the overall industry decline for the month."

Pachter believes that three-quarters of January software revenue--some $491 million to be exact--came from just six publishers. Thanks to Mass Effect 2's double-platinum performance, he expects loss-plagued Electronic Arts to come out on top with $165 million in monthly game sales, followed by cash-flush Nintendo with $145 million. Activision Blizzard is predicted to be in third place with $80 million, followed by THQ with $45 million, Ubisoft with $35 million, and Take-Two Interactive with $21 million.

By platform, the analyst believes Wii games accounted for 37 percent of all January software sales, or $240 million. Xbox 360 games are pegged as the second-most popular with $170 million in sales (26 percent), followed by the PlayStation 3 ($115 million, 18 percent), the DS ($95 million, 15 percent), the PSP ($20 million, 3 percent), and the PlayStation 2 ($15 million, 2 percent).

Given that both Darksiders and Mass Effect 2 have already gone platinum worldwide--shipping 1.2 million and selling over 2 million, respectively--it's no surprise that Pachter believes they will be amongst January's top titles in the US. However, he thinks the rest of the month's best sellers will be holiday holdovers, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Fit Plus, and Wii Sports Resort.

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