NPD calls October sales solid

San Andreas keeps the industry happy, as the month's number one game from Rockstar outsells the rest of the top 10 combined. Also, the EA vs. ESPN battle stays hot with hoops games.

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October sales of video game software and hardware, according to NPD figures reported by numerous industry analysts, were rock solid. Industry analyst Boris Markovich of TerraNova Institutional said that, "after a 3 percent decline in August, and a 23 percent gain in September, October had a 15 percent gain to bring the year-to-date total to a 3 percent increase."

The total take at the till for retailers, as measured by NPD Funworld (which does not include Wal-Mart), was $479 million--up 5 percent from September. Year on year, October sales of software were up 34.8 percent (as October 2004 saw just $355 million flow into retailers' pockets).

Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan reported NPD figures of year-to-date software sales of $3.7 billion, an 11 percent climb over the first 10 months of 2003.

The month wouldn't have been as sweet without San Andreas, however. If one excludes sales of Rockstar's ode to mayhem and manslaughter, year-on-year sales for October would have tallied only a 4 percent increase. An additional note of interest, as Markovich points out, is that, "on a unit basis, [GTA: San Andreas] outsold the debut of GTA: Vice City by 45 percent."

Tony Gikas of PiperJaffray said, "We estimate Take-Two shipped 4.5 to 5 million units worldwide at launch, including approximately 3 million in North America." With just four days of sales under its belt in October, San Andreas sold 2.1 million units and took in $101 million.

Markovich points out that "sports had a strong presence, with four titles in the top 10." The two hotshots in sports, Electronic Arts and Take-Two, swapped number one status, depending on the category: NBA Live 2005 outsold ESPN NBA 2K5 on the PS2 by 33 percent, while the ESPN outsold Live on the Xbox by 38 percent, according to Markovich.

"The battle is heating up in the sports category," Gikas said. "For the first time in years we've seen leader EA take a knee and cut prices in hopes of maintaining share." According to analyst memos this morning, sales of Madden 2005 totaled $10.6 million (241,000 units) and Take-Two's entry into the field, ESPN NFL 2K5, sold $3.1 million worth of software (at 158,000 units). "Net-net, we believe ESPN Sports sales are materially cutting into growth of EA Sports," Gikas said.

Mike Wallace of UBS, after reporting on October hardware sales that slumped 9 percent year on year, noted that Xbox hardware unit sales were up 23 percent, adding that "Xbox hardware should stay strong in November with the Halo release."

Also in the month, GBA hardware sales in October were up 15 percent, PlayStation 2 sales dropped 2 percent, and GameCube sales were down 57 percent. On the software front, PS2 software sales were up 56 percent, Xbox up 45 percent, GameCube down 13 percent, and GBA software up 37 percent.

On an optimistic note, Wallace concluded his memo, saying, "With software dollars up 11 percent YTD, we think the industry is on track to grow more than our 8-10 percent estimate for 2004."

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