Analysts expect November sales decline

Creutz projects software sales down 19% as Pachter puts drop at just 2%; both optimistic for 2013 growth

With the launches of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, Assassin's Creed III and the Wii U, the November reporting period might have been the industry's best opportunity to avoid a complete year of US retail sales declines. A pair of analysts today said that opportunity was missed, predicting the NPD Group's November sales figures to once again show year-over-year declines when they're released this Thursday.

Cowen Research analyst Doug Creutz expects November to be down sharply, 19 percent year-over-year for the console and handheld software market. Creutz said Black Ops II could be down about 11 percent from Modern Warfare 3's performance last year, selling 7.9 million copies for the month. He explained that the Treyarch developed shooter was only on sale for 12 days during this November's NPD window, while Modern Warfare 3 enjoyed 19 days on sale for its opening month last year. It doesn't help that Creutz thinks the blockbuster franchise is cooling off in general, saying Call of Duty sales will be down in the low-to-mid single digits for the year.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter was more optimistic, projecting November software sales down just 2 percent year-over-year. He pinned the blame for the slip on a difficult comparison from last November--when software sales were up 10 percent--"persistent industry weakness," and falling sales of DS and Wii games. Additionally, Pachter said he expects Black Ops II to be roughly flat with Modern Warfare 3's sales from last November.

November pessimism aside, both analysts expect the industry to bounce back next year. Creutz predicted a "sharp rebound" in the first half of next year, boosted again by the launch of new systems for the core market in the back half, a sentiment also expressed by Pachter.

"We believe there is finally light at the end of this almost four-year tunnel of declining video game sales," Pachter said, adding, "We expect results to rebound into sharply positive territory in February, when Take-Two releases BioShock Infinite, and we don't think that results will revert to double-digit negative sales growth again in 2013."

NPD hardware and software numbers have been down every month so far in 2012, often with double-digit declines. The holiday quarter got off to a rough start, with October sales dropping 25 percent year-over-year.

Latest comments (11)

Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Your relevance will regain a footing when you combine digital sales into your reports. Until then, your figures are only slightly more valid than those my posterior can generate.

If publishers are reporting digital represents between 20-50% of their revenue and analyst speculate that NPD will report that sales are down just 2-19%, doesn't that suggest sales could actually be up?
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Hugo Trepanier Game Designer, Behaviour Interactive5 years ago
I don't know Jim. The only person who knows more than Bruce about everything is Michael Pachter, so watch it! Heheh.

I agree though, it's a bit ridiculous not to systematically include digital sales in any analysis at this point.
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Eric Lagel Producer 5 years ago
Was about to comment as much. There's been a complete article recently about how it actually is a pain that no digital sales numbers are available, but that none of the big players in this domain would actually start displaying their numbers.

Until this day, I guess we're doomed to read nonsensical headlines like this one.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Something we need to keep a focus on, and help others understand (especially the media) is that all these people are "retail" analysts which tends to focus almost exclusively on physical sales.

When they say the "market" is down, they mean the "retail market" is down. The problem is they make no effort to differentiate what retail means against the entirety of the industry. Sadly, most media fail to do the same and the readers are left with a misrepresentation of the industry.

The industry is doing great, the retail segment is having difficulty keeping up with industry changes and the end of console cycle.

We (and the media) need to better understand who it is that is making these analyses and what/whom they represent to ensure we get the true gist of their analysis...else we simply set ourselves up for ignorance and misinformation.
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Anthony Chan5 years ago
I don't like NPD numbers because they don't give the full picture for the entire games industry. However NPD does shed a bit of light the way console momentum is going. Big budget PC games have many established distribution platforms for digital. These platforms are extremely successful. On the other hand console games are still mostly brick and mortar distribution. The big 3, still have not developed a way to push full games through online stores, and we still have a way to go (eg. internet data caps, internet bandwidth, copyright and piracy issues related soft copy formats, etc)

So yes, NPD does exaggerate doom and gloom in their numbers. However, if you intepret the data further, it could indicate, that console gaming might be on a decline, especially with respect to over all demand. That usually spells stormy weather for new software IPs and sometimes new hardware. To bring in sales of DLC is kind of moot, since we are looking for industry health with regards to new entry business (as opposed to existing big players with established franchises).

Investment analysts have been looking at the video games industry as the new hollywood, and wondering could this industry completely shadow the movie and television industry in terms of sales and profitability. For a while, it really seemed like it could. The slowing numbers are just getting us to look at them more closely in terms of our long term investment strategy.
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Anthony Chan5 years ago
@Jim I mostly agree with your logic, but as an investment analyst, when recommending buys and sells, we do have to look at brick and mortar (retail) for consoles as the I said before, digital distribution is not there for console.

PC is a totally different beast.
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Dave Wolfe Game Developer, Cosmic Games5 years ago
They can't include digital sales because they have no data for it. Most of the publishers and digital distributors are keeping that information to themselves, so the analysts can only make inaccurate predictions about retail sales, not inaccurate predictions about digital sales.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Anthony, digital sales don't just include a binary version of boxed titles but DLC, download only titles, virtual console software, subscription services, etc...

"The big 3, still have not developed a way to push full games through online stores..."

Actually, all 3 do that now. Sony and MS have been doing it for a while now and Nintendo started it a few months ago on 3DS and all 1st party and most 3rd party are digitally available on Wii U the same day as boxed retail.
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Simon Arnet5 years ago
Jim, not to be a downer on the conversation but it does list RETAIL in big giant letters above the article. :)
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
Indeed it does, Simon. Though when I say "media", I'm naturally referring to the media industry at large and not just

However, it should also be noted that uses the "retail" article tag for digital sales based articles as well so their "retail" tag isn't implicitly limited to boxed retail based news.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
Is this a joke?

Sales have been in decline month on month for the past few years. Now we pay analysts to state something so frikkin obvious it's insulting!
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