Ahead of NPD Group's U.S. retail sales data for December 2011, analyst firm Sterne Agee expects software sales to remain flat, or even dip 5 percent year-over-year to $2.25 billion (monthly total derived from December 2010 data
These estimates fall below what was predicted by competing firm Wedbush Securities
, which predicted that U.S. retail game software would grow 2 percent to $2.41 billion.
If Sterne Agee's predictions are correct, December will end the industry's three-month streak of consecutive growth for retail software, ending with the best November sales ever recorded ($1.67 billion).
Sterne added that it expects December's top selling titles to include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
, Assassin's Creed: Revelations
, Saints Row The Third
, and Just Dance 3
Moving into January, the firm expects software sales to remain flat year-over-year.
While Sterne did not provide estimates for U.S. retail hardware sales for December 2011, Wedbush predicted hardware sales will drop 12 percent, primarily because the firm expects Wii system sales to drop 53 percent year-over-year.
GameStop released its largely flat holiday sales figures
earlier this week, which the company says were held back by low Wii software sales and a 19.6 percent decline in hardware sales.
The NPD Group will release its December 2011 U.S. retail sales data this Thursday, so keep an eye on Gamasutra tomorrow for our full report.