Sales decline blamed on online multiplayer - Pachter

Decline to continue unless pubs charge for MP, says analyst

He won't leave it alone. Seemingly eager for the day he's proved right in his prediction that companies will start charging subs fees for multiplayer gaming, Michael Pachter has blamed the appeal of MP mode for the decline in software sales.

"We still believe that the biggest driver of the sales declines over the last 18 months is online multiplayer functionality, with an estimated 25m people playing many titles for hours on end," Pachter told investors.

Games like Modern Warfare 2, Halo 3 and Fifa feature huge multiplayer modes that keep gamers hooked for months or even years. "Based upon statements made by Microsoft earlier this year, it appears that millions of people are playing multiplayer games online for an average of 10 hours a week, making a serious dent in the time available to play other games," said Pachter.

And it's free. But this is something that has to change, according to the Wedbush Morgan man. "We remain convinced that the popularity of online multiplayer gaming has caused a decline in overall packaged product sales, and we expect this decline to persist unless the publishers change the multiplayer model.

"This can, of course, take many forms, including doing nothing, adding premium services for a fee, or limiting the quantity of multiplayer content that is provided for free."

"While we expect the publishers to continue to offer free multiplayer content that is similar in quality to what is offered today; we expect the publishers to channel their efforts on improvements to multiplayer by offering a premium subscription service, in the hopes of driving an ever- increasing number of customers to a pay service."

Pachter has voiced his prediction numerous times that games like Modern Warfare will go the way of the MMO with paid multiplayer services in the near future.