Game breaks into sales top 10

MTV’s “Rock Band” came roaring out of the holidays, as it broke into the game sales top 10 for the first time and was January’s No. 1 game in terms of revenue.

According to new data from industry tracker MTV, the cable conglom’s first self-published vidgame landed at No. 4, with the Xbox 360 version selling 184,000 units in the U.S. Because of its instrument kit, each unit of “Rock Band” costs $160 or $170, compared to $50 or $60 for a typical game. As a result, total revenue for “Rock Band” across the 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 was a very strong $30 million.

“Rock Band” sales declined less than many other titles coming out of the holidays, indicating it has healthy buzz among gamers. That’s good news for MTV as it works on the inevitable follow-up with subsidiary developer Harmonix, as well as a slate of new vidgames with producer Jerry Bruckheimer.

Otherwise, January’s top 10 chart largely followed December trends, with Activision’s “Call of Duty 4″ for the Xbox 360 once again No. 1, at 331,000 units.

“Guitar Hero III” for the Wii was No. 3, while the Xbox 360 version was No. 5, just 1,000 units behind competitor “Rock Band.”

Total game sales were up a boffo 50% from last January.

On the hardware side, it was a slow month, but a good one, for Sony’s PlayStation 3.

For the first time, Sony’s next-gen console came out ahead of the Xbox 360 and just a sliver behind Nintendo’s Wii. Overall hardware sales were down 6%, however, and both data tracker NPD and Microsoft noted that many retailers were short on hardware following the huge holiday season, during which PS3 was a distant third place.

According to NPD, Nintendo sold 274,000 Wii consoles in the U.S. in January vs. 269,000 PS3s and 230,000 Xbox 360s.

Sony undoubtedly benefited from more PS3s left on the shelves after the holidays but can nonetheless boast that consumers are more interested than ever in picking one up. Sales were up 10% from January of last year, even though the month had one fewer week in 2008 the way NPD calculated it.

A price cut and a growing library of well-reviewed games have contributed to positive momentum for Sony’s struggling system, and it was likely helped as well by Warner Bros.’ decision to switch allegiance to Blu-ray, essentially ending the high-def DVD format war in most observers’ eyes. PS3 is one of the cheaper Blu-ray players on the market.

Overall spending on Xbox 360 hardware games and accessories was $297 million vs. $244 million for the Wii and $219 million for PS3, indicating that Microsoft’s gamers remain the biggest spenders.

The competition was closer than it has been in the past among handheld gaming devices, with Nintendo’s DS only a bit ahead of Sony’s PSP, at 251,000 units compared to 230,000.

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