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Starcraft II could sell 4 million in opening quarter - Pachter

And even if title is delayed into 2010, Modern Warfare 2 could offset losses, says analyst

Analyst Michael Pachter expects Starcraft II to sell four million units in its opening quarter, a figure that would equate to USD 160 million in revenue for Activision Blizzard.

Operating profit could hit USD 80 million, he said, or four cent per share.

Reports yesterday suggested investors are anxious the title will slip into next year, since beta testing for the game, due to release in October, still hasn't begun. However, Pachter isn't convinced Blizzard will need as long in the beta test phase as others are predicting.

"They did a phenomenal job with the World of Warcraft beta - as I recall, it was around four months - and they will have no issues at all in attracting 30,000 supremely knowledgeable beta testers, so my bias is that the beta will take less time than most expect.

"Nobody knows how long the Starcraft II beta will take," the analyst told Gamasutra. "It's highly likely that the game is polished, with few or no bugs. The issue is balance, and until there is a large scale beta, Blizzard won’t be able to test every single weapon, defense, etc, in order to ensure that the three races are perfectly balanced."

But the Blizzard team are perfectionists, he pointed out, and nobody at Activision will want to challenge them on when the game is finished.

"The bottom line is that StarCraft II will launch when Blizzard says so,"

And even if the game is delayed into 2010, Modern Warfare 2 may be successful enough to offset the impact on profits this would have, Pachter predicted. "Modern Warfare 2 has the potential to sell an extra four million copies this year due to the big advertising push, so [a Starcraft II delay] could net out to zero financial impact."

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