This March looks set to be the month that the games business finally shows signs of solid recovery, after a poor 2009 for software and hardware sales.
Analyst firms Wedbush Morgan and Cowan and Company have both pointed to March for the turning point for growth in stocks, as investors become encouraged by early 2010 hits such as Mass Effect 2 and Darksiders, and easier sales comparisons to last year.
"We expect industry software sales to return to year-on-year growth during Q1, most likely in March, due to a strong release slate of core gamer titles and vastly easier comparisons," wrote Cowan's Doug Creutz.
Hardcore titles also likely to breathe life into the market over the next couple of months include EA's Dante's Inferno and Battlefield Bad Company 2, Sony's God of War III and Take-Two's BioShock 2, said Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter.
"The software sales declines that persisted throughout 2009 should be coming to an end following January’s sales results, he wrote. "While we expect yet another down month [in January], notwithstanding a handful of solid new releases, we think that the hardcore gamer will carry 2010 to solid growth, and think that the hardcore was reinvigorated with the late January release, Mass Effect 2.
"In April, hardware comparisons begin a string of very easy months, and we think that software sales will rise to double-digits through August."
Ahead of January's NPD results for US game sales, Creutz predicted that Mass Effect 2 sold 825,000 units during the five days of the month it was on sale, THQ's Darksiders 430,000 units and EA's Army of Two: The 40th Day and Sega's Bayonetta around 300,000 units each.
Looking at hardware sales for January in the US, Wedbush Morgan expects Sony's PlayStation 3 to enjoy a growth of over 60 per cent compared to January 2009, with 330,000 consoles sold, with Microsoft's Xbox 360 up 10 per cent to 340,000 units and Nintendo's Wii down 19 per cent to 550,000 units.
DS hardware sales are expected to show a modest increase of 2 per cent to 525,000 units, and the PSP down 13 per cent, with 150,000 units.