GameStop seeing downturn in Halo, Star Wars -- but is it a digital shift?

The company's most recent quarter showed surprisingly low sales for tentpole titles at the end of this year, but high digital sales may be claiming its numbers.

Today, GameStop issued its financial results for its most recent quarter, ended October 31, 2015 -- and there was some bad news in it: new hardware sales declined 20.4 percent year-on-year, and new software sales also fell by 9.3 percent. 

The company chalked that up to difficult comparisons between October 2014 (Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Destiny released then) but in an earnings call after the results release, the company laid some blame on this year's slate of tentpole games, saying that Assassin's Creed Syndicate, Halo 5: Guardians, and Star Wars Battlefront all showed a significant downturn, GameSpot reports

But analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen & Company told GameSpot that, in truth, GameStop is likely to be underestimating digital sales for current-gen console games.

"We especially have a hard time believing that Halo 5 digital units remain in the 20-25 percent range, as GameStop management suggested on the call. ... Industry sources support our belief that Halo 5 digital sales were much closer to half of units than the 20-25 percent GameStop is suggesting."

The analyst also said that he expects Star Wars Battlefront sales to fall in line with EA's forescasts, despite GameStop president Tony Bartel's claim that "... we had high expectations that diminished somewhat as it got closer and it failed to hit those lowered expectations."

We do know that Assassin's Creed Syndicate got off to a slow start, at least. That's another game GameStop called out. Ubisoft CFO Alain Martinez admitted as much in its most recent investor call, and chalked it up to the bugginess of last year's Unity. The company is expecting sales to pick up as word of mouth spreads. 

Though GameStop may be underestimating the pace of the switch to digital sales, the company did take advantage of their popularity; for the quarter, the company's digital sales rose 8.7 percent year-on-year, driven by Destiny: The Taken King.

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