Analysts warn of substantial decline ahead of July NPD release

By Steve Watts, Aug 10, 2011 2:30pm PDT

The July sales numbers from the NPD Group are due tomorrow, and some analysts are already warning that the figures are likely to be dismal. The firm Cowen & Company predicts sales of $317.5 million. This would be a 27% year-on-year sales decline, the worst since September of 2005.

The one ray of sunshine in the expected poor report is NCAA Football 12, which is estimated to have sold 770,000 units -- an improvement of 11% over last year's installment.

"Otherwise, we believe there were no new releases in July that exceeded 200K units; combined with what is likely to be a poor follow-through from the disappointing June release slate, we expect July sales to decline significantly," wrote analysts Doug Creutz and Jason Mueller, as reported by Gamasutra. Creutz expects August to be even worse than July, since the month's likely big seller, Madden NFL 12, isn't hitting until August 30. This could take sales for the month down "in excess of 30%."

It's not all doom-and-gloom, however. Part of the expected drop is attributed to an estimated 71% decline in PC software, since July of 2010 saw the release of StarCraft 2. Since summer is usually a lower-selling period, pitting a year-over-year comparison against a marquee title like that is bound to create a disparity. Madden is expected to put its strength into improving September, paving the way for slight growth in the fourth quarter.

One possible wild card factor not mentioned in the Gamasutra report could be the impending 3DS price drop and new color. Since hardware is more big-ticket item, strong sales for the system may help overall industry sales.

The NPD Group will release its official figures tomorrow.

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