SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. sales of video games and hardware jumped 46 percent in August from a year earlier, with Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) seeing sales of its Xbox 360 console shoot up after a price cut.
The top game was Electronic Arts Inc’s ERTS.O “Madden NFL 08” for the Xbox 360, which sold 897,000 units, according to data from market research firm NPD released on Thursday.
Nintendo Co Ltd’s 7974.OS Wii console held onto its title as the most popular piece of hardware, selling nearly 404,000 units, almost as much as the Xbox 360 and Sony Corp’s (6758.T) PlayStation 3 combined.
“It really goes back to our story of the different audience we are trying to pursue,” said George Harrison, head of marketing for Nintendo of America. “While Microsoft and Sony are focusing on the hardcore gamer, we are trying to focus on what we call the expanded audience.”
At $250, the Wii is the cheapest new console on the market, and its unique motion-sensing controller and emphasis on new kinds of games are attracting new players from outside the traditional young male audience.
However, Wii sales fell 5 percent from July and sales of Sony’s PS3 also fell, by almost 18 percent, to 131,000 units.
Meanwhile, Microsoft sold almost 277,000 Xbox 360 units in August, up 63 percent from July. In early August, Microsoft cut prices on the Xbox line, knocking $50 off the most popular model, down to $350.
That followed a move the previous month by Sony to chop $100 off the price of the PS3, making that machine cost $500.
Despite its powerful processors and high-definition Blu-ray DVD drive, the PS3 has struggled in the United States due to its high price and relative lack of hit games.
Sony noted PS3 sales had climbed 61 percent over the two months since the price cut. In August, the company also sold more than 200,000 units of the PlayStation 2, an older console that is enjoying a surprisingly long life due to its low price and huge library of games.
“We’re very optimistic about all our consoles as we head into the fall and holiday months,” Jack Tretton, president of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said in a statement.
On the software front, “Madden” for the PlayStation 2 took the number-two slot on the month’s list of best-sellers, while the PS3 version came in at number four.
Take-Two Interactive Software Inc’s (TTWO.O) “BioShock” for the Xbox 360 was the number-three game, selling 491,000 copies despite launching late in the month.
Nintendo had four games in the top 10, including “Metroid Prime 3: Corruption” and “Mario Strikers: Charged”.
Activision Inc’s (ATVI.O) “Guitar Hero” franchise rounded out the top 10 with “Guitar Hero II” and “Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s”, both for the PS2.