NPD Group just released its November video game sales figures and it was a whopper of a month. U.S. video game industry sales came in at $2.63 billion in November, up 52 percent from a year earlier.
In the hardware race, Nintendo's products were the clear leaders. The Wii console sold 981,000 units in the U.S. and demand is still unfulfilled.
"The Wii had its best-selling month yet, besting last December by 60 percent," NPD video games analyst Anita Frazier said in comments released with the November stats. "Since there is still an evident inventory shortage at retail, it's difficult to say just how high sales could be if you took that issue out of the equation."
Microsoft's Xbox 360 also had a hot-selling month, its second-best since December 2006, according to Frazier, with 776,000 units sold.
The previous-generation Sony PlayStation 2 outsold the current-gen PlayStation 3 by 30,000 units: 496,000 PS2s were sold, compared with 466,000 PS3s.
In the portable category, which Nintendo's PR people have been urging reporters to take a closer look at, the Nintendo DS sold 1.53 million units. Sony's portable, the PSP, sold about a third as many units.
On the games front, the leader was "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare." A total of 2.01 million copies were sold. More than three-quarters of the titles were purchased for the Xbox 360 with the remainder going to PS3 owners. The No. 2 game was "Super Mario Galaxy" for the Wii, with 1.12 million units. "Assassin's Creed" made a strong debut, selling 1.36 million copies -- again, split about three-quarters to one-quarter in favor of the Xbox 360. (NPD ranks software sales by platform, so even though "Creed" moved more total copies, it didn't take the No. 2 spot from "Mario" because it was split across two platforms.)
Frazier noted that "Assassin's Creed" was the "best-selling new IP" -- meaning not a sequel -- in the month it was launched. "Gears of War" last owned that distinction.
There was plenty of coverage during the month of two more peaceful titles thought to appeal to a broader audience: MTV's new "Rock Band" and the established "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" from Activision. The latter title sold 967,000 copies -- on the PS2 -- plus 426,000 on the Wii and about 500,000 more on the other platforms (PS3 and Xbox 360) for a total of 1.9 million.
As for "Rock Band," Frazier said in her e-mailed comments that its 382,000 total sales may be viewed as disappointing, but initial shipments were limited. "This is the kind of title that can easily build momentum in December and beyond as word of mouth spreads," she added.
NPD offered an interesting subtext in this month's report. Microsoft has touted its strong game and accessories attach rate -- the average number of games and add-on hardware products sold per console. But the Wii had a stellar month for accessory sales. "Four of the five best-selling accessories for the month were Wii controllers," Frazier said. "The Wii Zapper, which debuted in November, sold 232,000 units. The second-best selling accessory for the month was the PS3 wireless controller at 282,000 units."