After six straight months of double-digit declines, U.S. video game sales finally saw an improvement in September.
But the rebound was much more muted than analysts had hoped, a sign that the recession has cut deep into consumer spending on interactive entertainment. Even recent console price cuts weren't enough to push hardware dollar sales higher year-over-year.
Market researcher NPD Group on Monday reported a 1 percent increase in September sales of video game hardware, software and accessories compared with the same month last year. The total came to $1.28 billion. Year-to-date sales were down 13 percent.
Hardware sales dropped 6 percent to $472.3 million. For the first time since its launch three years ago, Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 sold more units than both the Nintendo Wii and the Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360.
"This portrays a very strong consumer reaction to the price decrease, as August and September both realized a lift of more than 70 percent over the prior month," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier of the PlayStation 3's performance.
Sony cut the price of the PlayStation 3 by $100 in August. Microsoft also slashed the Xbox 360's price by $100 that month, and Nintendo cut the Wii's price for the first time since its 2006 launch by $50 in late September. The average retail price of console hardware declined 8 percent from last September.
The top-selling gaming platform was still the handheld Nintendo DS, for the sixth month in a row.
Microsoft's "Halo 3: ODST" was by far the month's best-selling game. It helped push software sales 5 percent higher, to $649.3 million, though this was still well below what many analysts expected.
David Magee of SunTrust Robinson Humphrey forecast an increase in the low double digits. Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter expected a 21 percent jump.
Both "The Beatles: Rock Band" and "Guitar Hero 5" were among the top 10 best-selling games, along with Nintendo's "Wii Sports Resort" and "Madden NFL 10" for the Xbox 360.