U.S. video game sales seen up 53 percent in June

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. sales of video game hardware and software rose 53 percent in June from a year ago, with Konami Corp's 9766.T "Metal Gear Solid 4" helping to fuel a dramatic increase in the number of Sony Corp's 6758.T PlayStation 3 units sold, market researcher NPD reported on Thursday.

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"Metal Gear Solid 4" claimed the top slot as June's best-selling game, overtaking the two month reign Take-Two Interactive Software Inc's TTWO.O "Grand Theft Auto 4" enjoyed since its launch in April. The Konami game is made exclusively for the PS3.

PlayStation 3 console sales jumped 94 percent from the prior month. U.S. consumers bought 405,500 PlayStation 3 consoles in June, up from 208,700 consoles in May.

“Exclusive content usually fuels hardware system purchases and PS3 sales certainly reflect the impact of Metal Gear Solid 4,” NPD analyst Anita Frazer wrote in the report. PS3 unit sales hit a record for a non-holiday month, she said.

Nintendo Co Ltd 7974.OS sold 660,000 Wii consoles during June, a slight decrease from the 675,100 Wiis sold the month before. But the Wii's solid sales have secured its spot as the best-selling video game console in the U.S. of the current generation of machines. The console has sold 10.9 million units since its November 2006 release.

“The Wii appeals to people of all ages, generations and ability, and more and more new consumers continue to discover the Wii,” Cammie Dunway, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Nintendo of America, told Reuters.

Microsoft Corp MSFT.O sold 219,800 Xbox 360 consoles, a 17.8 percent increase from May.

For the first half of 2008, the U.S. video game industry has generated $8.3 billion in sales. This is a 36 percent increase in sales from the same period a year before, indicating that the sluggish economy is not hurting the industry’s performance as people turn to home entertainment, NPD said.

“These numbers are mind bogglingly large,” said Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Morgan analyst. “Clearly we have an expanded demographic, more than just hardcore gamers, and they have an insatiable appetite for video games.”

Six of the games on June's top ten best-selling game list are made for Nintendo hardware, including the month's second place top-seller, Activision Blizzard Inc's ATVID.O "Guitar Hero On Tour," for the DS handheld. Other top games included Microsoft's "Ninja Gaiden II" for the Xbox 360 and "Wii Play" and "Wii Fit" for the Wii.

Reporting by Jennifer Martinez; Editing by Peter Henderson and Carol Bishopric