Ahead of the Bell: Weak video game sales expected

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NEW YORK (AP) ? Analysts expect U.S. video game sales declined again in February when market researcher NPD Group reports the industry’s retail sales results after the market closes on Thursday.

Cowen and Co. analyst Doug Creutz expects that February software sales fell 19 percent versus a year ago. The bulk of that decline, he says, will come from the Nintendo Wii, while he expects sales of games for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 to be “roughly flat.”

When including an expected 33 percent decline in PC game sales, Creutz forecasts a 20 percent decline in video game software sales.

Michael Pachter of Wedbush expects a smaller decline, forecasting software sales fell 8 percent to $555 million in February versus a year ago.

“December U.S. console software sales were down 14 (percent), caused by competitive consumer electronics products, increased purchases of gift cards, and the acceleration of some sales into November, while January was truly baffling (down 38 percent), with weakness on every console,” he wrote in a note to investors.

He thinks February sales will show a slight improvement over January because of a stronger game release slate and the introduction of the portable PlayStation Vita from Sony Corp.

The report comes the same week that Japan’s Nintendo Co. announced that the portable Nintendo 3DS has sold 4.5 million units in the U.S. since its launch nearly a year ago.