Xbox 360 unit sales were up 91 percent year-on-year during the month of December at U.S. retail, Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter estimated ahead of NPD Group's monthly sales data, due this Thursday.
The analyst forecast that Xbox 360 sold 2.5 million units during the month, while the Wii sold 2.6 million (down 32 percent year-on-year) and PlayStation 3 sold 1.2 million (down 12 percent).
"We expect strong sales for the Xbox 360 due to Kinect, and we believe that Kinect console bundles sold especially well," wrote Pachter. "PS3 sales should be down, as sales from Move are unlikely to offset difficult comparisons from last September's [PS3] price cut."
He forecast total current generation hardware unit sales to be down 11 percent. "Given competition from the other consoles and as disclosed by Nintendo, we think that the Wii had another down month," he explained. "We expect Nintendo DS hardware sales to also continue to struggle until the introduction of the Nintendo 3DS in March."
Despite Wii's declining hardware sales the analyst categorized the console's holiday unit sales as "extraordinary," although software sales for Wii "remain underwhelming."
Pachter expects software sales in December 2010 to be up 2 percent to $2.63 billion, "continuing the upward trend begun in October." Pachter said sales of Kinect software and high-profile releases like Call of Duty: Black Ops
may help offset tough comparisons to the prior year's music game sales and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Leading software for December 2010 included Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops
, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood
and Just Dance 2
, and Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country Returns
, Pachter forecast.
He added that November's Call of Duty: Black Ops
is likely to have sold-in 20 million units to retail during the December quarter.
While the analyst said Wii's software sales were "underwhelming," falling 22 percent year-on-year during December, the console still had the highest software sales for the month with $880 million generated, Pachter estimated, followed by Xbox 360's $800 million (up 62 percent) and PS3's $525 million (up 52 percent).
Sales of Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm
for PC, which sold 4.7 million
in its opening month of December, are not included in NPD's monthly console video game data.
Pachter noted, "This month was particularly difficult to estimate, as the surprisingly high volumes for Kinect (around 3 million units sold in the U.S. alone during the month) drained many consumers' wallets, and may have affected their ability to purchase software." The analyst said the Kinect sold-through around 7.2 million units total through December 31 worldwide.
"With the exception of Xbox 360, we expect hardware sales over the next few months to decline as we continue to lap the price cuts from 2009," Pachter forecast.