Happy holidays for video game biz

Sales for 'Duty,' 'Guitar,' 'Mario' hit new record

It’s shaping up to be a huge holiday season for the vidgame biz, as boffo sales in November for Activision’s “Call of Duty 4” and “Guitar Hero 3,” Nintendo’s “Super Mario Galaxy” and Wii console and Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” drove the industry to a new record.

The year is going so well, in fact, that the $13.1 billion in total industry revenue as of Dec. 1 surpassed the total for all of 2006, according to the NPD Group.

“If the year had ended on Dec. 1, 2007 would be up 5% vs. last year,” said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. “With the biggest month of the year yet to go, total industry sales are on track to achieve between $18 billion and $19 billion in the U.S.”

All of the major console manufacturers had something to crow about. Nintendo’s red-hot Wii, which has been in short supply across the U.S., sold nearly 1 million units in November, nearly double its October total. Sales of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 more than doubled to 770,000 units. Sony’s struggling PlayStation 3 actually saw the biggest jump, thanks to a price cut, with sales almost quadrupling to 466,000.

“Call of Duty 4” on Xbox 360 was the bestselling game of the month with 1.57 million units. Add the 444,000 that Activision’s military sequel sold on PlayStation 3 and it has topped 2 million units in its first month alone.

Activision’s “Guitar Hero 3” also did well, selling a total of 1.9 million units across all platforms. Publisher is having a huge year and may for the first time best competitor Electronic Arts in total sales. Success comes as it is preparing to merge with “World of Warcraft” maker Vivendi Games in a $19 billion deal that will likely make it the industry’s largest publisher (Daily Variety, Dec. 3).

The other huge success story for the month was Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed,” one of the few nonsequels among the top sellers. French publisher took a risk on the new property that paid off big, as it sold nearly 1.4 million units on 360 and PS3.

Ubisoft also announced on Thursday that it is upping its guidance for the fiscal year starting April 1, partly due to the delay of some games to next year and partly to increased confidence in “Creed,” which is certain to become a new franchise; sequels are in the works.

Nintendo’s “Super Mario Galaxy” was the No. 2 game for the month. Fueled by overwhelmingly positive reviews, it sold more than 1.1 million units.

Only other new game to crack the top 10 was Microsoft’s 360 exclusive “Mass Effect,” which came in No. 6 with a solid 473,000.

“Rock Band,” meanwhile, didn’t make as big a splash in its debut as newbie publisher MTV had likely hoped. PlayStation 2 version doesn’t come out until this month, but the 360 and PS3 versions, which hit stores the week before Thanksgiving, sold a so-so 382,000 units combined. Limited supplies likely played a role, however, as did the game’s high price of $180, including its extensive accessories.

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