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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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December 11, 2008 3:39 PM

Nintendo had huge Wii and DS sales in November

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Nintendo had what it's calling industry record breaking sales of the Wii console and DS handheld system in November.

"We believe that Wii sales will top 2 million and DS sales will surpass 1.5 million for the month of November," Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo's executive vice president of sales and marketing, told me in an interview this morning. "And for both of these products, this is going to be a new all-time sales record for video game systems in any month outside of December."

The November Wii sales figure is more than double what the company sold in the same month last year -- which was viewed as a blow-out month at the time. It also bests by 48 percent Wii sales in December 2007, according to NPD data.

So how did Nintendo do it, particularly amid the worst economic climate in decades?

Dunaway, falling back on the sales pitch the company has used for this wave of Nintendo products almost from the beginning, said Wii and DS are gifts that all members of the family can enjoy.

"When money is tight, sometimes people buy only the one big thing that's at the top of their list," she added.

Last year, Wii shortages were the story, with Nintendo offering "rain checks" to consumers who couldn't find a console in time for Christmas.

"We made a commitment to consumers that we would put 50 percent more product on the shelves than we did last year and this is certainly helping consumers as they seek to find a Wii," Dunaway said.

She said by looking at retailer advertising to see who is featuring Wii and calling around to stores, consumers should be able to find a Wii this holiday season.

Dunaway added, "Retailers decide exactly when and where they will put that product out, and I think many retailers wanted to make a very big statement around Black Friday."

Both Microsoft and Sony have emphasized the online capabilities of their consoles, including communication features, social gaming and video downloads. Microsoft launched the New Xbox Experience in November and today Sony is finally opening Home, an online virtual world.

The Wii, by contrast, has much more limited online game play and video content. I asked Dunaway if Nintendo sees this as something it will have to address.

"I think people enjoy all being in a room playing together, but we also are commited to helping them play with friends and family in other locations," she said.

At the end of November, Nintendo launched "Animal Crossing City Folk," a game that allows people to connect their Wii with friends, visit other players' virtual "villages" in other parts of the world and use the Wii Speak channel to have conversations.

"It's a different take than what others have done," Dunaway said, "because it's less about one person just playing and competing with one other individual and more about rooms of people sharing the experience."

To be fair, both Xbox Live and Sony Home, allow interactions with multiple players.

More on November games sales coming shortly.

Note: Nintendo this morning briefed me on what it described as "internal" sales figures from Nintendo. A spokesman for the company later said the information was under embargo until NPD's official report is released -- despite making no mention of an embargo previously -- and asked that this post be removed until then. We complied because the spokesman said the failure to mention the embargo was his mistake and the early release of the information violated Nintendo's contract with NPD.

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