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Game hardware sales soar in February

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Selling like hotcakes

Gamers went on a buying spree in February, shocking analysts and rocketing the video games industry into positive sales territory for the first time in over two years.

Buoyed by an unexpected 10 percent jump in hardware sales and a 22 percent surge in peripherals (led by Microsoft's record-setting
Kinect
), video game industry sales are now 4 percent above where they were
a year ago year to date, according to the NPD Group.

That might seem insignificant, but retail sales have been in a nosedive since late 2008. And even when the industry has posted month-over-month gains, it has been unable to put the year-to-date figures in positive territory. How big a surprise was the turnaround to industry observers? Put it this way: Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities had forecast
a 28 percent decrease in hardware sales.

Because NPD no longer breaks out its numbers by platform, it's hard to pinpoint exactly how widespread the hardware sale surge was. Microsoft issued a statement saying Xbox 360 sales were up 27 percent during the month, with 535,000 units sold.

"Total retail spend on the Xbox 360 platform (hardware, software and accessories) reached $475 million, the highest among current generation consoles," the company said.

Nintendo, meanwhile, released a short statement indicating
that 454,000 Wii consoles were sold in February. That number takes the Wii
across the 35 million mark faster than any other console in U.S. history,
the company notes.

On the game software side, sales beat forecasts, but were still 5 percent below the February 2010 numbers. Activision-Blizzard's Call of Duty: Black Ops topped the list for the fourth consecutive month. Capcom took the number two slot with its fighting game release Marvel vs. Capcom 3, while Ubisoft's unstoppable Just Dance 2 slipped to third.

Among the month's other major new titles, Killzone 3 had a mediocre start, coming in eighth, while Bulletstorm ranked seventh.

Here's the complete list of top sellers:

Rank Title Publisher
1 Call of
Duty: Black Ops
Activision
Blizzard
2 Marvel
vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds
Capcom USA
3 Just Dance
2
Ubisoft
4 NBA 2K11 Take 2
Interactive
5 Dead
Space 2
Electronic
Arts
6 Zumba
Fitness: Join the Party
Majesco
7 Bulletstorm Electronic
Arts
8 Killzone
3
Sony
9 Michael
Jackson The Experience
Ubisoft
10 Mario
Sports Mix
Nintendo

While there's not quite cause to break out the champagne just yet, analysts note that software sales are tied to hardware. And with an expected $50 (or more) price cut due later this year on all systems, that could be a push the industry needs to achieve positive retail growth in 2011.

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