Sales are up 44% to $6.1 billion

This is shaping up to be a big year for the videogame biz — and a huge year for Nintendo.

Industry tracker NPD Group released domestic sales data for the first half of 2007 on Monday showing that console sales are up a boffo 44%, to $6.1 billion, while game sales rose a healthy 24% to $2.9 billion.

A big chunk of that growth is being driven by Nintendo, whose Wii is handily outselling the other next-gen consoles, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Its DS, meanwhile, is obliterating the other handheld vidgame console, Sony’s PSP, and is the top-selling vidgame device overall.

In addition, Nintendo claimed six of the 10 bestselling games for the first half of the year, all published by the Japanese vidgame giant for its own DS and Wii.

Wii actually outsold the 360 and PS3 combined in the U.S. in the first six months of 2007, according to NPD, putting 2.1 million units in the hands of consumers compared with just over 2 million for the other two.

DS, meanwhile, sold an astonishing 2.7 million units in the first six months of 2007, with a particularly strong 562,000 in June. Sony’s PSP, while doing decently, sold 1.2 million units in the U.S. in the same time period.

Though sales this year haven’t been great at 1.25 million, the Xbox 360 retains a big lead overall since it launched a year ahead of the other two consoles.

Lifetime-to-date, Microsoft has sold 5.8 million 360’s, compared to 3.2 million Wii’s and 1.5 million PS3’s.

News for the Playstation 3 remained grim in June, as Sony sold fewer than 100,000 units for the second month in a row. Total 2007 sales are just over 750,000. PS3’s have languished on store shelves this year due to its high price and a paucity of exclusive games.

Sony aimed to address that problem with a recent $100 price cut on the base version of the PS3 to $499. Company released data Tuesday showing that the console’s sales have surged 133% since the price cut was announced July 9. Sony also revealed at the E3 confab two weeks ago that it has a very broad array of exclusive games in development that it hopes will help boost PS3 sales in the coming months.

Sony is also being buoyed somewhat by the continued strength of its Playstation 2, which costs only $129. Seven-year-old console sold 1.67 million units in the first half of this year, putting it ahead of the 360 and PS3.

Nintendo’s “Pokemon” franchise showed that it hasn’t lost any luster, claiming the No. 1 and No. 3 spots for vidgame sales with the new “Diamond” and “Pearl” games for the DS, which sold more than 2.8 million units in the U.S. combined.

Sony’s “God of War” franchise was also very strong, as the second installment, available only for the PS2, sold more than 1 million units.

Activision’s “Guitar Hero 2″ was the only game from a third-party publisher — one that doesn’t also make consoles — to crack the top 10. The 360 and Playstation 2 versions combined sold more than 1.8 million units.

News was surely welcome for most in the vidgame industry after single digit growth in 2006 and a flat 2005.

A record-breaking fall and holiday season is expected as a number of huge games, including “Halo 3,” “Grand Theft Auto IV,” and “Rock Band,” from the makers of “Guitar Hero,” are headed to store shelves.

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