Electronic Arts ( ERTS) is expected to report a middling quarter at best later Tuesday. But many investors and analysts already are focused on the future. The company itself predicted months ago that results for its holiday quarter would likely fall shy of those it turned in for the year-ago period. After recent sales data from NPD indicated plunging retail sales in December for EA's games, many analysts have concurred with the company's assessment. But to at least some of them, none of that really matters. What they see is a company in the prime position in a fast-growing market. "I'm not that concerned with the next quarter or two," said Christopher Casey, a portfolio manager at Boston Private Bank, which is long shares of EA. The next generation of consoles, expected to debut later this year, is "going to benefit strong software franchises like Electronic Arts owns," Casey added. "No one can measure up to them." However, that wasn't necessarily the sentiment throughout 2004. The company was forced into a price war by Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO) on the sports game front. Meanwhile, EA found itself largely lost in the shuffle during the holidays, with the lion's share of the industry's sales going to mega hits Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from Take-Two and Microsoft's Halo 2. In response, EA consistently offered analysts disappointing forward guidance last year and ended up falling shy of Wall Street's earnings estimates last quarter. And analysts aren't expecting the company's operating results to get much better any time soon. Earlier this month, both GameStop ( GME) and Electronics Boutique ( ELBO) warned that hardware shortages last quarter crimped their software sales and their overall results. Because EA is the market leader in video-game software, that's a bad sign for the company, analysts say.