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Pachter predicts March NPD declines, hardware cuts ahead

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter expects a grim result in this week's NPD report - but expects a PlayStation 3 price cut this year.

Despite at least one major seller, Mass Effect 3, Pachter expects the NPD Group to report a 23% year-on-year decline in software sales for March 2012, at $565 million.

If correct, it would be the fourth month in a row to show a decline; Pachter expects sales to get back on track in May, when take Two, his favourite publisher, pushes out Max Payne 3, and Blizzard finally produces Diablo III.

The analyst also expects a year-on-year drop off in hardware sales of 32%, but noted that March 2011 saw the release of the 3DS and an associated boost.

Pachter doesn't expect the Vita, which launched in February, to have a long enough tail to lift March out of its slump, predicting just 125,000 unit sales - "meaningfully below 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," he said.

Hardware figures won't pick up again unless we see pice cuts, Pachter warned - despite the expected launch of the Wii U this year.

"Recent slowing of Xbox 360 hardware sales could cause Microsoft to consider a price cut by E3. PS3 hardware sales should continue to lag those of the Xbox 360, and we expect sales to trend downward by 10 - 20% monthly, until Sony cuts prices once again, likely at E3," he said.

"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."

Pachter isn't banking on a new Xbox reveal, either.

"We do not expect an announcement of a next- generation console from Microsoft until the Xbox 360 core model is priced below $200, likely around this time next year," he said.

The NPD Group will release its March 2012 sales figures on Wednesday.


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Brenna Hillier


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