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GameStop: Halo, Star Wars and Assassin's Creed sold below expectations

Retailer sheds light on the titles that contributed to its soft Q3 results

GameStop has called out three AAA games for performing below its expectations: Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Microsoft's Halo 5: Guardians and, surprisingly, EA's Star Wars: Battlefront.

The leading US games retailer reported relatively low sales of new software along with its Q3 results, but it was more specific about the under-achievers in a subsequent call with investors. Tony Bartel, GameStop's COO, highlighted both Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Fallout 4 for meeting its expectations, but Assassin's Creed, Halo and Battlefront all came in below.

Given EA's belief that Battlefront will sell 13 million units by the end of March 2016, it was the subject of numerous questions from GameStop's investors. Bartel wouldn't give an exact figure for its sales, but he said, "we had high expectations that diminished somewhat as it got closer, and then it failed to hit those lowered expectations." A similar observation could be made about Battlefront's reviews, which were less enthusiastic than many expected following its successful beta.

"I think Star Wars got off to a slow start. Given the buzz around the movie, we anticipate that Battlefront is going to be a very strong game"

Tony Bartel, COO

However, CFO Robert Lloyd said he would not alter GameStop's Q4 guidance, pointing to the imminent release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a likely catalyst for improving Battlefront sales.

"I think Star Wars...got off to a slow start," Bartel added. "Given the buzz around the movie, we anticipate that this game is going to be a very strong game, when the movie launches in mid-December. Not to mention the fact that we have it prominently displayed in our Black Friday, and in fact we're the only retailer that has it with significant discount, which is also going to guide sales."

Ubisoft has already addressed the relative drop in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate's first week sales, but GameStop's appraisal of Halo 5's performance runs counter to MIcrosoft's positive spin.

The game generated $400 million in revenue in its first week, though given that hardware bundles were included in that figure makes the claim that Halo 5 is the biggest launch in the series' history somewhat dubious. Microsoft also emphasised the strength of its digital sales, but GameStop had its own view there, too.

"In the past, we know that certain publishers and platform holders have reported sell-in and some have even reported sell-in at retail," Bartel said in response to an investor's question. "I'm not saying that that's happened in this case, but that has happened in the past. And so I think I would definitely go back and talk to Microsoft about their announcement, as they are the only ones who can comment on that.

"Second, they definitely understand exactly what their digital percentage was. They know exactly what they sold and they know exactly what was sold digitally. So again, I would encourage you to go back and ask Microsoft to disclose that number.

"But again, we talk with platform holders and publishers constantly. We have again this quarter. And we are in full understanding and in full belief that there is no game that was launched this quarter that was materially above a normal digital percent at launch."

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