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Nintendo Wii Tops Sony's PlayStation 3 in December

Nintendo sold 604,200 of its new Wii video game consoles in the U.S. in December, beating Sony, which sold 490,700 units of its new PlayStation 3, according to retail market research firm NPD.

Microsoft sold 1.1 million Xbox 360 video game consoles to consumers in December. Microsoft's console debuted in November 2005, a full year ahead of the Wii and PS3, which were in short supply during the holidays, when the U.S. video game industry rings up about half of its annual sales.

Overall video game and hardware sales were $3.7 billion in December, up 28%. Overall sales rose 19% in 2006 to $12.5 billion, NPD said.

Microsoft , Sony and Nintendo are locked in a battle for the top spot in the $30 billion industry's new console war.

Game sales, not including titles for personal computers, were up 5.4% to $1.7 billion and hardware jumped 59.2% to $1.6 billion, fueled by sales of consoles like the high-end PS3 and Xbox 360, which retail for $600 and $400, respectively, in the U.S..

NPD receives data representing about two-thirds of U.S. retail sales and makes projections for the remainder of the market based on a sampling of consumers. The figures do not include Canadian sales or those to "mom and pop" retailers, and are among the numerous data points used by analysts to measure the health of the video game market.

"Our numbers in terms of what we have shipped is definitely well above that (NPD) number. What NPD does not account for is the product that is in transit," said Nintendo spokeswoman Perrin Kaplan, who added that the company had a "robust" year.

Sony spokesman Dave Karraker said the company had a record month in December, when according to NPD it rang up total U.S. sales of $1.6 billion.

David Hufford, director of project management for Xbox, said the NPD numbers -- which also showed Xbox 360 life-to-date U.S. sales of 4.5 million -- "are very much in line with what we're seeing here."

Microsoft on Sunday said it had shipped 10.4 million Xbox 360 units worldwide by the end of 2006. The company had the top-selling game with "Gears of War" for the Xbox 360. Unit sales of the gory shooting game reached 815,700 in December and should top three million in total by next week, Hufford told Reuters.

Activision's "Guitar Hero II" for the Sony's market-leading PlayStation 2 was the second-biggest seller in December, with unit sales of 805,200. Electronic Arts' "Madden NFL 07," also for the PS2, landed in third place, selling 737,100 copies. Sony sold 1.4 million units of the PS2, the current leader in the global console market.

Hand-held players were also hot holiday gifts, with consumers snapping up 1.6 million Nintendo DS units and 953,200 PlayStation Portables, NPD said.

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