Following the release of August's NPD numbers, Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter stated that he anticipates September's top release will be Halo 3, which he expects to sell over 3 million units in its first 12 days.
Pachter also said the game is expected to drive console sales, and predicts that unit sales for Xbox 360 could exceed 400,000 in September in its highest figures of any non-holiday month since launch.
Other highlights include his statement that the average selling price of all games (console and handheld, current and next generation) in August was $38.49, up 16 percent over last August’s $33.15 ASP, with lower pricing on current generation and catalog software more than offset by higher pricing on next generation software. Unit sales were up 5 percent, he says, and year-to-date ASPs are $34.42, up 10 percent compared with the prior year’s $31.18.
Pachter adds that there were 15 games selling more than 100,000 units apiece in August, versus nine in the previous year. Of these, the top 10 captured 39 percent of dollar sales and 27 percent in unit sales in August versus 27 percent and 17 percent last month, which in his view reflects higher demand for new releases (particularly Madden) this month.
On the PlayStation 3, Pachter said that year-to-date demand is tracking below expectations; however, he noted that hardware sales have been at higher levels the past two months due to the price cut in July, suggesting that demand may be sustainable at these higher levels.
Pachter says he had expected to see a greater decline in PS2 hardware sales as sell-through for the next generation consoles picked up, but the legacy console "keeps chugging along." He also implied that it may not be a surprise should Sony unveil a new PS2 price cut to $99 at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show, and in that case, Pachter says, sales of PS2 could again rebound to the 250,000 monthly level.
Pachter adds that industry software sales growth comparisons will remain difficult in September, but hardware sales should be up "modestly" due to the price cuts in July and August. Pachter anticipates that retailers will soon run out of the discontinued 60GB PS3; nonetheless, he says he still expects a price cut for the new 80GB model (without a game bundle) to $499 some time before Thanksgiving.
Addressing recent rumors of a new 40GB PS3 SKU planned for release prior to the holidays (and the previously mentioned $99 PS2 rumor), Pachter opines that "both of these ideas have merit," noting that Sony Computer Entertainment President Kaz Hirai is the keynote speaker at next week’s Tokyo Game Show. "If the rumors are true," he says, "we cannot think of a better forum for making such an announcement, given that the event is less than a week before the launch of archrival Microsoft’s Halo 3."
Should Sony choose to cut prices next week, Pachter anticipates that hardware sales will trend much higher for the balance of the year, in which case "we are prepared to revise our 18% sales growth estimate upward."
Pachter also added details on some interesting sale numbers not included in last night's NPD report, noting that Madden NFL '08 sold 2.25 million units, exceeding his estimate of 1.9 million units. This figure, he states, was about 10 percent higher than last year, but the measurement period was an extra two weeks of sales compared with last year. "We believe that Madden sales are tracking about 10 percent behind last year’s level in units, and about 10% ahead in dollar sales," he added.
As for other prior estimates, NCAA Football '08 and Boogie did not meet Pachter's previous expectations, as he states that NCAA Football '08 sold 157,000 units compared with his estimate of 300,000 units in its second month, while Boogie sold less than half of Pachter's estimate of 150,000 units.
Pachter also noted that THQ's revenue decreased 40 percent from last August, exceeding his prior estimate of 5 percent year-over-year. New release Moto GP 07 and Stuntman sold only 25,000 combined units, Pachter says, also significantly below his estimate of 100,000 units combined. Catalog sales were led by Ratatouille, WWE SmackDown vs. RAW 2007, and other WWE games.