'Star Wars,' 'Cars' score with gamers

Gamers love toons and “Star Wars.”

In a year that saw vidgame sales rise modestly as players saved their money to buy one of the next-gen consoles, LucasArts’ “Lego Star Wars 2” and THQ’s “Cars” were far and away the bestselling titles based on movie or TV licenses, a Daily Variety review of data from industry tracker NPD Group found. Both games sold more than 2.3 million units in the U.S. last year.

Also selling more than 1 million units were 2005’s original “Lego Star Wars,” from Eidos; Square Enix’s “Kingdom Hearts 2,” a Japanese title that combines numerous Disney toons with characters from classic vidgame franchise “Final Fantasy”; and LucasArts’ “Star Wars Battlefront 2,” another 2005 entry that continued to do boffo biz in 2006.

Last year also saw three games based on classic Hollywood pics hit the market — to mixed results. Vivendi Games’ “Scarface” came out on top, with 886,000 units sold in the U.S., followed closely by Electronic Arts’ “Godfather” at 835,000. But Majesco didn’t do as well with the poorly reviewed “Jaws: Unleashed,” which sold 380,000.

Other licensed games that disappointed by selling under 400,000 units in the U.S. included Electronics Arts’ “Superman Returns,” which was delayed from the pic’s theatrical release to its DVD launch in the fall; Activision’s adaptation of “X-Men 3”; THQ’s “Monster House”; and Take 2’s “24,” “Family Guy” and “The Da Vinci Code.”

Overall industry revenue was up 19% to $12.5 billion, driven largely by the launch of Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3, along with broader availability of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which launched in late 2005.

By the end of the year, Microsoft had sold 4.5 million 360s in the U.S. The Wii and PS3 both launched in the same week in November, but Nintendo’s lower-priced console took a big lead, selling 1.1 million units. Sony’s PS3, which has been plagued by supply problems and comes with a pricetag almost equal to the Wii and 360 combined, sold 687,000.

Sales of games alone were $6.5 billion, up a modest 6% — a big improvement over a flat 2005.

Games for portable consoles, especially Nintendo’s red-hot DS, took the biggest jump, rising 19% last year. Games for TV consoles rose just 3%.

Bestselling titles for the industry as a whole included the EA’s perennial hit “Madden NFL,” Nintendo’s “New Super Mario Bros.” for the DS, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 shooter “Gears of War” and Activision’s rock star simulation “Guitar Hero 2.”

NPD Data is not 100% complete as it surveys most, but not all, retailers and doesn’t include PC games.

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