Modern Warfare 2 over 22% of Nov. game sales - Analysts

Industry trackers expect NPD numbers to underscore importance of Activision shooter, say overall software revenues grew or at least matched last year's levels.

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It doesn't take a particularly insightful analyst to realize Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is big. However, Pacific Crest's Evan Wilson and Wedbush's Michael Pachter are offering some perspective on just how big it really is.

Modern Warfare 2 could account for one out of every $4 spent on games in the US last month.
Modern Warfare 2 could account for one out of every $4 spent on games in the US last month.

The analysts have released their expectations for the industry-tracking NPD Group's November US retail gaming industry sales figures, which are expected to be announced Thursday afternoon. Wilson said November software sales should be about flat year-over-year at $1.45 billion, while Pachter predicted a 7 percent jump over the penultimate month of 2008 to $1.55 billion.

In both cases, Modern Warfare 2 played a pivotal part in the analysts' estimates. Wilson projected that the Infinity Ward-developed shooter sold 5 million units in the US across its various regular and premium edition packages, while Pachter expected sales "around 6 million."

"Modern Warfare comprises an estimated 25 percent of this month's industry sales," Wilson said. "While this is not out of the ordinary for a tent-pole title in a non-holiday month, it is impressive given our forecast that this November's sales will match the month's highest historical total on record. For comparison, Halo 2 reached 20 percent of industry sales in November 2004. The next highest share taker was Guitar Hero III at 12 percent in November 2007."

Pachter's figures had Modern Warfare 2 making up a little less than 23 percent of the industry's software sales for the month. The analyst also expects New Super Mario Bros. Wii (1.2 million units sold), Assassin's Creed 2 (1.2 million copies sold after going through 1.6 million worldwide in its debut week), and Left 4 Dead 2 (650,000 units sold) to meaningfully contribute to the month's tally. As for other big name releases, Pachter pegged Dragon Age: Origins sales at 400,000, Band Hero at 150,000, and the $120 Tony Hawk: Ride skateboard peripheral bundle at 100,000.

Wilson expressed a little more optimism about the biggest games beyond Modern Warfare 2, expecting Assassin's Creed 2 to rack up 1.4 million sales, with Left 4 Dead 2 reaching 800,000 copies sold.

Unfortunately, the outlook on hardware sales wasn't as cheery. Pachter expects revenues from consoles and handhelds to be down a whopping 25 percent from last November for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that November 2008 was a tough act to follow, with the Wii enjoying record-setting console sales of 2 million. Pachter expects that last month's Wii total will work out to just over 1 million.

Pachter also expects the number of Xbox 360 sales to be down 22 percent from the previous November. While the analyst said Microsoft is in a position to lower the system's price to spur sales, he instead expects the company to boost interest with "a more feature-packed Xbox 360 in early 2010." One of the added features, he added, is likely to be a 250GB hard drive.

"As 2009 draws to an end, it is clear that it will end as a horrible year for video game publishers," Pachter said. "Notwithstanding a small rebound to sales growth in September, sales have been down seven of the last eight months, and although we expect modest sales growth in November, we think that sales are likely to track back into negative territory in December…Once we're past the holidays, we expect solid software sales gains each month through October 2010."

The NPD Group is expected to announce its US game retail sales figures Thursday evening.

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