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Analysts clash over AAA console game viability
Analysts clash over AAA console game viability
August 1, 2012 | By Mike Rose

August 1, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

The latest financial reports from publishers Electronic Arts and Take-Two have divided analysts, with some suggesting strong performances are ahead, while others aren't so convinced.

EA fell short of its revenue estimates for its fiscal first quarter, while two of Take-Two's biggest releases last quarter, Max Payne 3 and Spec Ops: The Line, both sold fewer copies than the company anticipated.

Cowen and Company's Doug Creutz believes that concerns over the demand for EA's upcoming retail titles "may be overdone" -- in particular, he cites sales of NCAA Football 13, which "is selling comparably to last year's title."

"We continue to believe that high-quality, well-marketed triple-A titles can still deliver unit sales in line with historical levels," he adds.

Baird Equity Research's Colin Sebastian isn't so optimistic for the company's triple-A offerings, noting that "the challenged console market continues to weigh on growth near term, burdened by the late-stage console cycle." However, he says that EA's digital strategy is encouraging, and that the company has potential digital catalysts coming later this year.

As for Take-Two, Cowen's Creutz is incredibly optimistic for the publisher's fiscal year, describing the upcoming release of Borderlands 2 and the imminent Grand Theft Auto V release date announcement as "powerful."

He notes in particular that pre-orders for Borderlands 2 are ahead of the company's highly successful 2010 release Red Dead Redemption, which sold-in 6.9 million units during its first quarter. Hence, Creutz has raised his first year Borderlands 2 sell-through estimate from 4 million to 5 million.

Baird's Sebastian, on the other hand, is wary that Take-Two is suffering from the tough console retail market, and that "the company's digital revenue streams are not yet significant enough to counteract these trends."

He suggests that the company's digital sales are not yet at scale, although he admitted that he is "encouraged by Take Two's initiatives on newer platforms." As a result, Sebastian has lowered his estimates for Take-Two's second quarter earnings.

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