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Sector Snap: Video game stocks decline

December 8, 2011
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NEW YORK—Shares of video game publishers traded lower Thursday, ahead of the NPD Group's monthly video game retail sales report and after one publisher, THQ Inc., lowered its revenue guidance for the holiday quarter.

THQ cut its outlook for the quarter because of lower-than-expected sales of its uDraw Game Tablet. The tablet, which attaches to a game console to let players draw pictures and play games, was popular on the Nintendo Wii last year but failed to repeat its success on high-definition consoles -- the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

The company lowered its revenue forecast to a range of $382.5 million to $412.5 million from $510 million to $550 million. Analysts polled by FactSet had been expecting revenue of $505.5 million before the company gave its updated outlook late Wednesday.

THQ is one of the smaller publicly traded video game companies. But jittery investors sent larger players such as Electronic Arts Inc. and Activision Blizzard Inc. lower too. November and December are the biggest months for video game companies. That's partly because many people buy video games as gifts, but also because the biggest blockbuster games of the year are usually launched in the fall and around the holidays.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said he expects NPD to report software sales growth of about 3 percent, to $1.5 billion. That would be slightly lower than last November's sales growth rate of 4 percent. But comparisons are difficult, since Microsoft Corp. launched its popular Kinect motion controller last fall amid much fanfare, he added.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3" from Activision is widely expected to be the month's top-selling game -- it broke sales records after its Nov. 8 launch. A crowded game release slate also likely helped grow sales, Pachter said.

"In addition, Black Friday hardware sales were up year-over-year, likely providing a late-month incremental boost to software sales," the analyst added.

THQ shares tumbled 56 cents, or 38 percent, to close at 90 cents.

Activision's stock fell 34 cents, or 2.8 percent, to $11.93 and shares of Electronic Arts Inc. saw its stock slide $1.10 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $21.49.

Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.'s shares fell 41 cents, 2.9 percent to $13.77. The overall stock market also declined, but less severely, with the Standard & Poor's 500 index ended off about 2 percent..

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