Microsoft (MSFT) has set September 25 as the official release date for Halo 3, the new version of its wildly popular first-person shooter for the Xbox 360. Halo 3 may not drive Microsoft's financial performance with the same force as Vista and Office, but it really does matter to the company's bottom line - and in fact could drive the company's entertainment group, which includes Xbox, to a profit in the September quarter.
That's the conclusion of Goldman Sachs analyst Sarah Friar. In a research note this morning, she forecasts that Microsoft will ship 4.2 million copies of the new game into the channel in September, generating an estimated $170 million in revenue for the company. Friar thinks that is a conservative estimate, and that the actual total could as much as $50 million higher. Friar notes that the retail price for the standard version of the game will be $59.99, up from $49.99. She also says her estimate on the number of consoles installed "could be conservative," and says Xbox 360 sales could get a boost in the fall from both the release of Halo 3 itself, and from "a potential price cut" for the console, "perhaps in sync" with the game's debut.
Friar says her base case for the game "pushes the segment into slight profitability for the quarter."