Portable games get biggest boost in 2006

The launch of two new consoles helped the vidgame biz to get back on the growth track in 2006.

Following a slow 2005 in which revenue total vidgame sales were roughly flat, sales of games rose 6% to $6.5 billion in the U.S. last year, according to industry tracker NPD Group.

Portable games got the biggest boost, rising 19% to $1.7 billion. Two games for Nintendo’s hot portable DS system, “New Super Mario Bros.” and “Brain Age” hit the top 10 for 2006.

Console game sales were up a more modest 3%, still a signicant improvement from last year’s 12% decline. Growth came in large part from some hits that came out late in the year, such Microsoft’s “Gears of War,” Activision’s “Guitar Hero 2,” and Nintendo’s “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.”

Debut of Nintendo’s Wii console and Sony’s Playstation 3, along with much wider availability of Microsoft’s Xbox 360, resulted in 88% growth for console hardware revenue to $2.9 billion. Among the new consoles, Nintendo handily beat its competitor, selling 1.1 million Wii’s in the U.S. while Sony sold 687,000 Playstation 3’s. Difference is largely because of Sony’s supply problems, though recent reports have pointed out that PS3’s are more widely available on store shelves in January than the Wii.

Since debuting in late 2005, Microsoft has sold 4.5 million 360s in the U.S.

Nintendo is also handily beating Sony on the handheld front. It has sold a total of 9.2 million DSs, according to NPD, while Sony has sold 6.7 million PSPs.

In total, U.S. vidgame industry revenue, including hardware and software, rose 19% last year to $12.5 billion.

Top 10 selling games of 2006:

(Title, then publisher, then console, then millions of units in U.S.)

Madden NFL ’07, Electronic Arts, PS2, 2.8M

New Super Mario Bros, Nintendo, DS, 2 M

Gears of War, Microsoft, Xbox 360, 1.8 M

Kingdom Hearts 2, Square Enix, PS2, 1.7 M

Guitar Hero 2, Activision, PS2, 1.3M

Final Fantasy XII, Square Enix, PS2, 1.3 M

Brain Age: Train Your Brain, Nintendo, DS, 1.1 M

Madden NFL ’07, Electronic Arts, Xbox 360, 1.1 M

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter, Ubisoft, Xbox 360, 1M

NCAA Football ’07, Electronic Arts, PS2, 1 M

Source: NPD Group

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