NEWS - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Analysts: Game sales

Analysts: Game sales cool slightly, still strong

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- U.S. sales of video games and game consoles totaled more than $100 million in the week ended December 1, putting the industry on track for a record holiday season, according to a series of analyst notes released Monday.

According to Merrill Lynch analyst Justin Baldauf, a review of the most recent sales figures from market research firm The NPD Group shows sales of $101 million in the week ended December 1, against $47 million in the week ended November 10.

That week was the last before the launch of Microsoft Corp.’s new console, the Xbox, and Nintendo Co. Ltd.’s new console, the GameCube. Xbox launched November 15.

Sales were down 26 percent in the week ended December 1 over the previous week, Baldauf and others said, although they attributed that decline to a leveling off in sales after the two new consoles debuted.

NPD has not publicly released its sales estimates for the most recent week yet, but an NPD spokeswoman said Monday the analyst reports were likely accurate.

According to Credit Suisse First Boston analyst Heath Terry, Xbox sales in that week were 182,000 units, for a estimated total since launch of 738,000. GameCube sales were 65,000 units, for a total of 534,000 units.

Nintendo has claimed NPD’s sales figures for GameCube are inaccurate because NPD does not collect data from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Nintendo’s biggest retailer, and said last week it sold 600,000 units within 15 days of launch.

Terry said sales in the week for Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 2 were 241,000 units, for a total since its November 2000 launch of 5.2 million units. PS2 is widely expected to maintain a dominant market position through next year.

Overall, he said sales were down 26 percent in the week ended December 1 over the previous week, after week-over-week gains of 79 percent and 61 percent in the weeks ended November 17 and November 24, respectively.

UBS Warburg analyst Mike Wallace, like the others, attributed the drop-off to the lack of a new hardware launch, which both previous weeks had seen; and also to the absence of any major anticipated software launches in the week.

"We continue to believe that the holiday season is tracking as expected," he said.


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