Alex Cho
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March Video Game Industry Trends To Watch

Publisher data was recently published by NPD when pertaining to the major digital game publishers. The implications on full game downloads isn’t captured by NPD, but the rather abrupt softness in y/y comps is mostly attributable to mix shift to downloads as opposed to physical copies sold.

Source: Wedbush securities

The QTD (quarter to date figures) are hard to disambiguate, but basically the lack of major titles releases from EA and Activision Blizzard plus the shift to full game downloads implies weak sell-through for retail franchises like Game Stop. The figures were slightly ahead of estimates from Wedbush. And I was also able to confirm with Michael Pachter directly via phone that the figures pertain purely to physical copies. It’s hard to tell how much of this translated into retail weakness for physical copies, but basically in terms of QTD, physical sales grew by roughly 8% for the entire industry. As such, investors should anticipate some relief in the form of software sales for Q1’16 for GameStop.

There are questionable implications on hardware sales over Q1’16 as console sales declined by 17% between Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Nintendo was the big loser, as it’s already experiencing the mid-cycle of a console generation. NPD estimated roughly a 20% y/y decline in the month of March for Nintendo Wii U. The decline of 17% is above GME’s guidance of 10% hardware decline.

I’m still anticipating ATVI and EA to deliver on results, as they didn’t pre-announce anything quite yet. The weakness in physical implies further mix-shift to digital, which has favorable implications on gross margins for the two major publishers. As for GameStop, it’s looking like a better quarter for software, but the massive drop off in hardware could offset some strong data points.