Pachter projects March sales surge

Wedbush Morgan's headline-grabbing analyst believes Nintendo has lifted US Wii constraints, PS3 has bested X360 sales, Smash Bros. Brawl and Vegas 2 led industry to 47 percent software sales spike.

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Last week, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian predicted gaming software sales had grown by a heady 35 percent in March, defying the US' current period of reduced economic activity that former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan has called a recession. According to Sebastian, consumers were drawn out of their spending cocoons by new releases such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2, and Army of Two, strong catalog sales of Call of Duty 4 and Rock Band, and improving PlayStation 3 sales.

Today, Wedbush Morgan Securities analyst Michael Pachter issued his predictions for the five-week period of March, concurring in large part with Sebastian but predicting a far more bullish take for the month. According to Pachter, software sales rocketed 47 percent in March to $850 million, with current-generation titles contributing $705 million and the remaining $145 million coming from legacy systems.

Unsurprisingly, Pachter named Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Ubisoft's Rainbow Six Vegas 2 as sales leaders for March, selling through 2 million and 600,000 units respectively. EA's controversial Army of Two also performed well at retail in its first month, Pachter believes, selling 300,000 units. Take-Two's two debuts--MLB 2K8 and Bully: Scholarship Edition--performed similarly well, with each selling respective 250,000 and 100,000 copies. In all, Pachter thinks 20 different titles sold more than 100,000 units in March, up from 16 during the same period of time last year.

Pachter also took a stab at hardware figures for the month, saying Nintendo's Wii would far-and-away be the console sales leader with 700,000 units. If that number seems disproportional to February's 432,000 units, Pachter says it is because Nintendo has decided to ship to the US its "fair share."

"Since April 2007, Nintendo has manufactured 1.8 million Wiis per month, implying that US share should be somewhere between 720,000 to 900,000 units per month (40 to 50 percent of total units produced). We believe that Nintendo has diverted a significant portion of its available supply to Europe since April, as the weakening dollar has made US sales less profitable for the company. However, we believe that European supply has caught up with demand, and think that the company likely shipped the US its 'fair share' in the month of March, particularly in light of Nintendo's need to support the launch of Super Smash Brothers Brawl."

As for the Wii's competitors, Pachter believes Sony's PlayStation 3 continues to make gains on the Xbox 360, outselling Microsoft's console 365,000 units to 310,000. On the handheld front, Pachter predicts yet another big month for the Nintendo DS, with the ubiquitous portable logging another 700,000 systems sold. Pachter also foresees Sony's PlayStation Portable as also having had a strong month, selling 300,000 units.

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