Retail software sales in the U.S. fell by nearly a quarter last month, while hardware sales dropped by a third despite the recent debuts of Mass Effect 3
and Sony's PS Vita handheld, according to Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter.
He predicts The NPD Group, which delivers its data for March's game sales on Thursday, will report that retail software sales in the U.S. fell for the fourth consecutive month. Pachter says the game industry didn't have enough big releases, in a business that he believes is becoming increasingly hit-driven.
The analyst forecasts software revenues of $565 million for March 2012, down by 23 percent compared to March last year. Pachter admits that BioWare's Mass Effect 3 had a big debut last month
and likely led software sales, but he expects its numbers to be relatively modest compared to blockbusters like Call of Duty
or Grand Theft Auto
"We do not expect a return to positive growth until May, which features Activision Blizzard's Diablo III
, Take-Two's Max Payne 3
, and Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
," he says.
Pachter also expects that total hardware unit sales slipped by 32 percent year-over-year, partly due to the launch of Nintendo's 3DS in the same month last year. While Sony just put out its new handheld, PS Vita, in February, the analyst predicts it sold only 125,000 systems in March, which he says is "meaningfully below our expectations."
"We believe the PS Vita is unlikely to match its February unit sales figure in the near future as the buzz caused by its release dies down, and TV commercials become more infrequent," says Pachter.
He adds, "We expect hardware sales to rebound once price cuts are implemented, but expect a recurrence of the dip next holiday, partially buffered by some modest contribution from the introduction of the PS Vita in February and the Wii U later this year."