NEW YORK — Japan's Nintendo Co. drove the U.S. video game market in January, with industry sales of gaming systems, software and accessories growing 13 percent to $1.33 billion.
According to market researcher NPD Group, Americans bought $445.4 million worth of video game hardware during the month, a 17 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.
The Nintendo Wii was by far the month's best-selling system, with 679,200 units sold, followed by the handheld DS, also by Nintendo, with 510,800.
Reggie Fils-Aime, the president of Nintendo of America, said this is the 16th consecutive month the Wii has been the best-selling console in the U.S.
Fils-Aime said he expects the game industry to grow this year, but added this won't be "even across the board."
"Nintendo platforms will have accounted for a large majority of the year-over-year growth," he said in an interview.
The $250 console, launched in 2006, transformed the video game landscape by getting millions people who were not experienced gamers to pick up a controller.
The Xbox 360 from Microsoft Corp. sold 309,000 units during the month. The priciest of the three consoles, the PlayStation 3 from Sony Corp., sold 203,200 units.
January software sales climbed 10 percent to $676.6 million. This was above the 5 percent increase that Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian had forecast. He noted that retailer GameStop Corp. recently reported "healthy" sales of gift cards over the holidays, and many of these were likely redeemed in January.
Games from Nintendo grabbed the top three spots for the month. "Wii Fit," perhaps boosted by New Year's resolutions to exercise, was the month's top-selling game with 777,000 units sold. "Left 4 Dead" from Electronic Arts Inc. and "Call of Duty: World at War" from Activision Blizzard Inc., both for the Xbox 360, were also among the top five.
NPD analyst Anita Frazier said the broadening of the game audience "will help buoy the industry through these tough economic times, provided they have enough compelling content to keep them interested."
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