‘Super Smash’ ignites U.S. sales

Nintendo game drives revenue up 57% in March

A huge surge for Nintendo led by its hit game “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” helped spur the overall U.S. videogame biz to grow an astounding 57% to $1.8 billion in March.

Belying the overall dismal trend for the U.S. economy, vidgames saw double-digit growth in all categories, with software sale leading the way at 63%. Console sales were a bit slower, up 46%.

“Super Smash Bros. Brawl,” the new fighting game that features nearly all of Nintendo’s characters and a few licensed from partners, sold 2.7 million units domestically from its March 9 debut through the end of the month. That makes for the biggest videogame so far this year and the biggest first month debut for any title since “Halo 3,” which sold 3.3 million units when it premiered in September.

“Super Smash Bros. Brawl” sold to 31% of the Wii install base and in just a few weeks has already become one of the bestselling games of all time,” noted NPD analyst Anita Frazier.

Stealth shooter “Rainbow Six Vegas 2,” from Ubisoft, had a solid debut, selling just under a million copies on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as did EA’s badly reviewed co-op action game “Army of Two,” which sold 831,000 in the U.S., according to NPD.

Two PSP games, Sony’s “God of War: Chains of Olympus” and “Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII” sold more than 300,000 units, a rarity for games on the handheld console.

Ubisoft’s poorly reviewed adaptation of the ABC show “Lost” was a commercial dud. It failed to break into the top 10, meaning both its Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions sold under 225,000 units.

Other debut games that didn’t register included Sega’s “Condemned 2: Bloodshot” and D3’s “Dark Sector.”

Among holdovers, holiday hits “Call of Duty 4″ and Guitar Hero III,” both from Activision, remained in the top 10. More recent games that sold well out of the gate, such as Capcom’s “Devil May Cry 4” and Disney’s “Turok,” have already faded.

Success of the Wii-exclusive “Smash Bros.” helped Nintendo break the record for nonholiday console sales as gamers bought 721,000 Wii systems. Nintendo’s handheld DS also continued to do extremely well, selling 698,000 units.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 were way behind at 262,000 and 257,000, respectively.

Those two consoles are sure to get a big lift in April sales, however, as the Wii is not compatible with “Grand Theft Auto IV,” which comes out April 29 and is certain to be the month’s biggest game. Sources close to publisher Take-Two have already said the game is on track to sell about 6 million units worldwide in its first week (Daily Variety, April 16).

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