Video game biz has epic 2007

Revenues up 43% to nearly $18 billion

The video game biz had what can only be described as an epic 2007, as huge sales for the Wii, “Halo 3,” the “Guitar Hero” franchise, and a slew of other big sellers drove industry revenue up 43% to nearly $18 billion.

Best selling game for the year on a single console was Microsoft’s “Halo 3,” at 4.82 million units. Nintendo’s mini-game collection “Wii Play” was no. 2 with 4.1 million units, followed by Activision’s “Call of Duty 4” for the Xbox 360, which sold just over 3 million units, Activision’s “Guitar Hero III” on Playstation 2 at 2.7 million units, and Nintendo’s Wii exclusive “Super Mario Galaxy,” which ended up no. 5 with over 2.5 million units sold.

“Halo 3” now stands amongst some of the top selling games of all time, with first year perf similar to chart toppers like “Grand Theft Auto” games “Vice City” and “San Andreas” and 2004’s “Halo 2.”

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Amongst overall franchises, though, it was Activision’s “Guitar Hero” that rocked the house. Between last year’s no. 2, this fall’s no. 3, and summer-release “Rock the ’80s,” “Guitar Hero” games generated over $820 million in U.S. sales according to the NPD Group. That’s a record for any vidgame franchise in a single year.

Nintendo ended the year with a commanding lead on the hardware front. The red hot Wii, which couldn’t meet demand over the holidays, sold 6.3 million units in 2007, compared to 4.6 million units of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and 2.6 million for Sony’s Playstation 3.

Microsoft countered, however, that Xbox 360 owners continue to buy more games, thus generating more royalty revenue for the hardware maker. Of the 20 best selling games for the three current-gen systems in 2007, 11 were for the 360, seven for Wii, and two on PS3.

Though it remains a distant third, Sony’s PS3 did gain much needed momentum this holiday season, with sales up 60% in December from last year thanks to a price cut and a several new exclusive games.

Domination of the Wii may have been the most surprising vidgame story of 2007, but Nintendo’s biggest success was actually its handheld DS console, which moved a boffo 8.5 million units, making it the best selling vidgame device of 2007. Sony’s PSP handheld was far behind at 3.8 million.

Sony’s Playstation 2 also continued to sell well, despite being 10 years old. Customers picked up nearly 4 million units in 2007.

Only non-sequel to break into the 2007’s top 10 — save for Nintendo’s “Wii Play,” which most consumers bought because it includes an extra controller — was Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed.” In a year dominated by established franchise, it stood out amongst the new names that struggled for attention.