Microsoft sold 3.3 million units in September

Master Chief helped Microsoft fight off all comers in September, driving the Xbox 360 to its first sales victory over the Nintendo Wii.

Providing the first independent take on “Halo 3″ sales, NPD Group reported Thursday that Microsoft sold 3.3 million units of the hit sequel in September. That makes “Halo 3,” which launched Sept. 19, the bestselling game of 2007 after just 12 days of sales. Closest competitor, “Wii Play,” has sold 2.2 million.

Interest in “Halo 3″ combined with a recent price cut helped drive the Xbox 360 to its biggest month in the U.S., selling 528,000 units, nearly double the 277,000 sold in August. That put it slightly ahead of Nintendo’s Wii, which sold 501,000 units domestically and is still well ahead for overall 2007 sales.

Still, Nintendo had to be happy, as Wii sales were up by 97,000 units from August. “Mario” maker’s handheld DS grew by over 100,000 units from the previous month to 496,000 in September.

News was grim for Sony, however, as its PlayStation 3 declined from 131,000 to 119,000 units sold despite the debut of exclusive, self-published games “Warhawk,” “Lair” and “Heavenly Sword.”

Sony is launching a version of its PlayStation 3 with a smaller hard drive and without the ability to play PS2 games in early November. It will be priced at $399, $100 less than the cheapest version currently on the market and only $50 more than the standard Xbox 360. Sony is hoping the cheaper console, combined with several big new exclusive games, such as “Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction,” will boost PS3 sales for the holiday season.

Debut of a smaller version helped out Sony’s PlayStation Portable, as sales nearly doubled to 285,000. PlayStation 2 remained a solid performer, as sales rose slightly to 215,000.

Most industryites expect the Wii to end up as the holiday season’s bestselling console due to its low price, appeal beyond hardcore gamers and exclusive new titles like “Super Mario Galaxy.” The big question is whether the PS3 will compete closely with the Xbox 360 or continue to be blown away.

“Halo 3″ easily outsold the rest of the games in the top 10 combined. Other new games on the chart included Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass” for the DS, which came in third with 224,000 units; EA’s “Skate” for the Xbox 360, which sold 175,000 units and came in at No. 5; and “Heavenly Sword,” which was No. 10 with 139,000 sold.

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