The Wii is a winner. Again.
Nintendo sold over 2 million of the popular video game consoles in the United States U.S. last month, according to data from market researcher NPD Group. Its smaller sibling, the Nintendo DS, sold over 1.5 million units — not bad for a handheld system in its fourth year of life.
"For both products, this is a new all-time sales record for the U.S. for months outside of December," said Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo. "What we’re seeing is that families are looking for fun, inexpensive activities that they can enjoy together. And the Wii and the DS satisfy that need."
Indeed, it was another strong month for video game sales despite the ever-worsening economic news. Industry watchers have theorized that consumers see a high bang-for-the-buck value in video games, which can be played over and over, versus a $12 movie ticket.
Whatever the reason, Americans bought $2.91 billion worth of game hardware, software and accessories in November — a month where employers cut 533,000 jobs nationwide according to the Department of Labor.
“The video games industry continues to set a blistering sales pace, overall,” wrote NPD analyst Anita Frazier in an e-mail. Revenues, she said, were 10 percent higher this November than last.
Game hardware accounted for $1.2 billion in revenue last month, led by Nintendo’s consoles. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had a good month as well, selling 836,000 units.
(Msnbc.com is a joint Microsoft - NBC Universal venture.)
“We had our biggest November ever, and feel great about leading into the final stretch of the holiday season,” said company spokesperson David Dennis. "We look at game sales and feel really strong."
Overall, game software sales grew 31 percent to $1.45 million last month. Microsoft’s much-anticipated "Gears of War 2" was the best-selling game with more than 1.5 million units sold, followed by Activision Blizzard’s Xbox 360 version of "Call of Duty: World at War," which sold more than just over 1.4 million units.
Nintendo had four games in the top 10, including "Wii Play" (which comes bundled with a Wii remote), "Wii Fit," "Mario Kart" and "Wii Music." "Guitar Hero World Tour" for the Wii and "Left 4 Dead" for the Xbox 360 also made the list.
Two PlayStation 3 games also cracked the top 10 last month: “Resistance 2” and its version of “Call of Duty: World at War.” Sony continued to trail its competitors, though, selling 378,071 PlayStation 3 consoles in November.
And although Sony’s PlayStation 3 sales saw a 93 percent uptick over October sales, the company confirmed that its year-over-year November sales had decreased. A company spokesperson pointed out that last November was an abnormally high month for PS3 sales due to a price decrease and the introduction of a new, 40-GB model.
“Throughout the year, PS3 and the PlayStation brand have demonstrated consistent growth and we remain confident in meeting our fiscal targets,” said Sony vice president of sales Ian Jackson in a statement.
NPD’s Frazier wrote that “all three of the newer-generation console systems have something to brag about” this holiday, and that "it's clear there can be more multiple victors."
While price and the economy remain issues, "the most important factor that will drive success in 2009 will be the line-up of compelling games that will keep consumers involved in the industry,” she said.
But not all video-game news was good this week.
Electronic Arts, which publishes “Left 4 Dead” on the Xbox 360, warned Tuesday that it was seeing weaker-than-expected holiday sales. The company, which expects to miss its revenue and earnings targets for 2009, also said it plans to shed more jobs in the coming months.