Game On: Game Console and Software Stock Update

Includes: EA, NTDOY, SNE
by: Todd Mitchell

A roundup of recent news relating to game console makers and gaming software publishers:

- Shares of Electronic Arts (ERTS) fall after negative comments from management. Shares of ERTS were off 5% last week after EA CEO Larry Probst said Sony missed its North America launch target of 400,000 PS3s by as much as 50% and that he doubted it would reach its goal of 1 million units by year-end. Mr Probst also said the popularity of the Wii caught EA by surprise and it will need to ramp up its efforts for that platform, and indicated that sales of Superman Returns have been about one-third of what it was hoping for, reigniting concerns about the quality of EA's recent development efforts.

- Shortage of PS3s is driving a surge in PS2 and PSP sales. Sony (NYSE:SNE) confirmed the first batch of PS3s for North America is sold out. Sony has been airlifting additional PS3s since launch and insists it is on target to ship 1 million by year-end. The shortage has turned out to be a boon for Sony, as many disappointed customers have bought PS2 and PSP titles instead, resulting in a 117% rise in PS2 sales for the week of November 26, versus a week ago, and a 281% increase in PSP sales. First party software sales for PS2 and PSP increased 121% and 168%, respectively.

- Nintendo sold over 600,000 Wiis in North America in eight days. Revenue from first party software and accessories exceeded $190 million with more than 454,000 units of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess sold. Nintendo said the Virtual Console games did well and reiterated it is on track to sell 4 million Wiis worldwide by year-end. The Wii launched in Japan on December 2. Nintendo expects to have 400,000 units for launch with 600,000 more by year-end.

- Secondary market for PS3 and Wii cooling after an initial surge. Some 26,708 Wiis sold on eBay from November 19 through November 24 for an average price of $412. However, prices are currently falling with most Wii listings not exceeding $300. Some 14,675 PS3s sold on eBay from November 17 through November 24 for an average price of $1,186. However, prices are currently falling with most PS3 listings not exceeding $1,000.

- EA acquired Headgate Studios, will develop titles for the Wii. Now called EA Salt Lake, the studio developed the last six PC titles for Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Madden NFL 07 and is reportedly working on the Wii version of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, which is expected to be released in March 2007. Other EA titles scheduled for release on Wii are Need for Speed Carbon, Harry Potter, SSX, The Godfather, and a Sims title.

- THQ Inc. (NYSE:THQ) announced distribution deal with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) through 2009. THQ will be the exclusive distribution partner for select Microsoft PC titles and will publish games such as Zoo Tycoon 1, Age of Mythology, and Rise of Nations.

- Namco Bandai puts PS3 development costs at $8.6 million. The comments came from company President Takeo Takasu, who claimed a PS3 title has to sell 500,000 units to be profitable. Namco Bandai had two PS3 launch titles for Japan and the U.S. (Ridge Racer 7, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire) and four Wii launch titles in Japan.

- Nintendo claims DS market leader in U.K. market. Two million units of DS have been sold in the U.K. for a total of seven million in Europe with the DS outselling the PSP by a ratio of 2.5 to 1. In other news, Nintendo said the GBA would be available for at least one more holiday season.