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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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February 12, 2009 3:15 PM

January game console sales defy gravity

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

In January, Microsoft's U.S. Xbox 360 sales increased 34 percent and Nintendo saw sales of its market-leading Wii console jump 148 percent over the same month a year ago, according to NPD Group figures released this afternoon. Sony, however, saw its third consecutive month of lower PlayStation 3 sales, compared with the year earlier.

Here's how the numbers break out, with January sales followed by total U.S. sales since launch.

  • PS3: 203,200; 6,998,000

  • Xbox 360: 309,000; 14,194,200

  • Wii: 679,200; 18,230,200

The U.S. video games industry as a whole had January sales of $1.33 billion, up 13 percent from January 2008, NPD reported. That's well above the modest and unexpected growth in consumer spending as a whole last month.

Game hardware sales growth of 17 percent outpaced software sales growth, up 10 percent -- a bit of a departure from the pattern of previous game console generations.

"At this point in the console lifecycle, we would expect to see a greater percentage of total industry sales generated by software sales, but the continued strength in hardware sales is changing that scenario a bit," NPD analyst Anita Frazier wrote in an e-mail accompanying the monthly stats. "This will have a long-term positive impact on the industry as the user base expands."

David Dennis, a spokesman for Xbox, attributed the strength in the video games business to people "cocooning" at home in the bad economic environment and looking for cheap entertainment.

Microsoft also registered its biggest single-month gain in subscribers to the Xbox Live online entertainment network, one of the biggest success stories of its broader games business.

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