Xbox 360 Surges, Wii Rallies, PS3 Slumps in November Video Game Sales

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Any doubts that Microsoft's Xbox 360 was the console consumers preferred as the critical holiday shopping period arrived were laid to rest in November video game sales.

November's numbers were a boon for the industry in general, with sales spiking in nearly every category after months of declines. We're talking about the best November on record in terms of new physical retail sales, beating November 2009 by $23 million and November 2008 by $30 million.

In fact NPD reports all categories were up over 2009 save portable hardware and software. While the Nintendo DS managed to lead the hardware pack with 1.5 million unit sales, it still declined in year-on-year sales by 12%.

Microsoft's Xbox 360 held the lion's share of units moved at 1.374 million (up an unbelievable 68% year-on-year), fending off Nintendo's Wii at 1.27 million (up a trifling 1% year-on-year). Sony's numbers were comparably dismal, with PS3 sales at just 530,000 (down 25% year-on-year), well below expectations, though in part because of tough year-on-year comparisons given last September's PS3 price cut.

Still, that's pretty tough news for Sony, considering the PS3 outsold the Wii in both September and October.

NPD reports the 360 platform overall accounted for over 40% of total industry sales and 60% of accessory dollar sales, citing the "successful" launch of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera. In fact Kinect was "the best-selling accessory item" in November overall, says NPD.

In the software column, Activision's critically acclaimed (though user-condemned) Call of Duty: Black Ops debuted with record-snapping sales of 8.4 million units and 25% of all video game software units sold in November (and that's just U.S. retail sales). NPD says that already makes it the 7th bestselling game of all time. Append an ominous "so far."

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood registered second in combined 360 and PS3 sales, followed by Just Dance 2 (Wii), Madden NFL 10 (all platforms), and Fable III (Xbox 360) in the top five spots.

Gran Turismo 5 (PS3) charted in the seventh spot, but comparisons were complicated by the game's unexpectedly late November launch date.

Year-end physical retail sales should register between $19 and $20 billion, says NPD, noting that November's gains "offset a good portion of the year-to-date declines."

NPD cautions this data "represents new physical retail sales only," noting that retail sales were roughly 70% of total industry levels for the first half of 2010. The company recently began reporting on used game sales, digital downloads, and mobile apps, and notes that while the percentage allotted to new physical retail sales will likely change, it "gives some context with which to evaluate the portion that new physical retail sales represents."

A good if not great, albeit better-than-expected year (in the offing, anyway).

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