Sales of video games, consoles soared in '07
Microsoft takes big lead over Sony, which plans several new releases
LANGSTON WERTZ JR.
Last year was a very good one for the video game industry.
According to a report released last week by industry trackers the NPD Group, U.S. game and console sales hit nearly $18 billion. That was 43 percent higher than in 2006.
Hardware sales were up 54 percent. Console software sales were up 39 percent.
And those sales figures don't include PC games or online sales.
Nintendo's Wii console was the big winner with 6.3 million sold. Microsoft sold 4.6 million Xbox 360s despite a billion-dollar hardware failure controversy, and Sony, once the dominant player in the industry, moved 2.6 million PlayStation3 units.
The Wii sells for $250. The Xbox goes between $280 and $450 and the PS3 is $499.
"What these numbers tell me is that the closer you get to the magic $200 price point, the better your sales," said analyst Rob Enderle of consulting company the Enderle Group.
According to the NPD Group, Sony has sold 3.25 million since its November 2006 launch compared with 7.4 million Wiis, which Nintendo launched about the same time.
Microsoft released the Xbox in November 2005, a full year ahead of its rivals, and it has sold 9.15 million in its life span.
"Microsoft has a pretty serious lead over Sony," said analyst Van Baker at research company Gartner. "It's unclear whether Sony can catch up. By the end of this year, the game will largely be over. This is a critical year for Sony."
In 2008, Sony plans some releases that could generate "Halo"-level buzz: the final episode of the best-selling "Metal Gear Solid" series, new installments of "Kill Zone" and "Devil May Cry" games and "Little Big Planet," a new franchise that is getting early critical praise.
In November, Sony's PS3 had the greatest month-to-month increase in November unit sales of all the next gen systems at 70 percent. With software sales apparently about to ramp up, Sony still has time to get back in the race.
But it is an uphill battle. Microsoft has a better online experience, and recent deals to include network and movie programming via Xbox Live could make the 360 unit more attractive to potential buyers looking for a difference between Microsoft and Sony's offerings.
And Microsoft's "Halo 3" sold 4.8 million copies in 2007, despite being released in September. Microsoft gained a lot of momentum from that exclusive title. In 2008, as Sony makes a push to get back into the game, Microsoft needs to find another software title, like Halo, to help boost sales.
A few other notes:
• Xbox 360 had three games in top 10 of sales: No. 1 "Halo 3" (4.82 million); No. 3 "Call of Duty 4" (3.04); and No. 9 "Assassin's Creed" (1.87).
Sony had three PS2 games in the top 10, but no PS3 or PSP titles.
"Guitar Hero III" was fourth (2.72), "Madden 08" was seventh (1.9) and "Guitar Hero II" was eighth (1.89).
• "Guitar Hero" games did more than $820 million in U.S. sales, a single-year record for a game franchise.
• Nintendo had the No. 2 game ("Wii Play," 4.12 million); No. 5 game (Wii's "Super Mario Galaxy," 2.52); No. 6 (DS "Pokemon Diamond," 2.48); and No. 10 (Wii's "Mario Party 8," 1.82)
-- The Associated Press contributed.