By Scott Hillis
SAN FRANCISCO, June 14 (Reuters) - U.S. sales of video game hardware and software in May jumped 50 percent from a year ago, driven by strong demand for Nintendo's Wii console and Sony's PSP handheld device, industry data showed on Thursday.
May sales were $815.5 million, up 49 percent from May 2006 but down nearly 3 percent from April's $838.6 million as the industry heads into its typical summer slowdown, data from market research firm NPD showed.
The Wii, from Nintendo Co. Ltd. 7974.OS, was once again the most popular console, with consumers buying 338,300 units of the $250 machines, NPD said.
Nintendo's DS handheld sold 423,150 units and its "Pokeman Diamond" game for the handheld device was the top-selling game on any system, NPD said.
"There's really no end in sight for the Wii," said Nintendo spokeswoman Beth Llewelyn. "Consumers are responding to the direction we've taken with these systems."
Sony Corp.'s (6758.T) PlayStation 3 continued to languish in May, with sales of 81,600 units, roughly the same as the previous month.
The console is packed with powerful technology such as a high-definition Blu-ray DVD player, but customers have shied away from the $600 price and dearth of must-have games.
The PlayStation 2 outsold its high-tech successor by more than 2 to 1, with sales of 187,800 units, as its low price and huge library of games continued to draw customers not yet convinced of the need to own any of the newer consoles.
Sony also got a boost from its PSP handheld, sales of which jumped 40 percent from a year earlier, to more than 221,000 units, after a price drop in April.
"It was a down month for the industry, except for PSP which benefited from the price drop to $169 and a new marketing campaign," Sony spokesman Dave Karraker said in a statement.
"The decrease across the other systems was due, in part, to a lack of new software in the channel."
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT.O) sold 154,900 units of its Xbox 360 machine, down about 11 percent from April.
"We're heading into summer, we're all breaking out shorts and buying less consoles," said Aaron Greenberg, group product manager for Microsoft's Xbox Live online gaming service.
Microsoft's best-selling game was "Forza Motorsport 2", which sold 217,000 copies despite being released in the final days of the month, Greenberg said.
Greenberg also said that 820,000 people had downloaded and played a test version of "Halo 3", a sci-fi shooting game that many expect to be the biggest title of the year. The final version of "Halo 3" will come out in September.
"We're very focused on winning the holiday," Greenberg said, noting that 75 percent of annual console sales came in the fourth quarter. "If you look at historical holiday line-ups for any platform, I think we've got one of the strongest ever."
Other games in the top 10 included Nintendo's "Mario Party 8" for the Wii, Activision Inc.'s (ATVI.O) "Spider-Man 3" and "Guitar Hero II" for the PS2 and Xbox 360, and "Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars" for the Xbox 360 from Electronic Arts Inc. ERTS.O.
((Editing by Ben Tan; San Francisco Newsroom, e-mail: email@example.com, +1 415 677 2505)) Keywords: VIDEOGAMES SALES/
(C) Reuters 2007. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution ofReuters content, including by caching, framing or similar means, is expresslyprohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters and the Reuterssphere logo are registered trademarks and trademarks of the Reuters group ofcompanies around the world.nN14208131