Xbox 360 Surges in September on Strong "Halo: Reach" Sales

The market researchers at NPD have decided to stop publishing video game hardware and software unit sales figures publicly, and will instead require subscribers to pay for that data. No matter: Microsoft, with the number-one selling video game console in the United States in September, has decided to reveal the numbers themselves. And the Xbox 360 was the number-one selling console for the month, with 484,000 units sold—up 37 percent year over year. And the bestselling game was Halo: Reach, with 3.3 million units sold in its first month.

"Xbox 360 enters the holiday season with four consecutive months as the number-one console in the US," a Microsoft statement reads. "\\[It's\\] a stark comparison to the other console platforms."

Indeed, the Xbox 360 is the only video game console to experience a year-over-year gain. Both the Nintendo Wii (which has been reeling lately after years of dominance) and the Sony PlayStation 3 saw sales drop year-over-year. Nintendo sold 254,000 Wiis, down 45 percent, and Sony sold 312,000 PlayStation 3s, down 37 percent. (To be fair to Sony, that year-ago month was the month in which it launched a new, "slim" version of its console, so the comparison is somewhat skewed.)

But September as a whole was down 8 percent for the broader video game industry, with $1.2 billion in sales. Hardware was down a whopping 20 percent and would have been far uglier if it weren't for the Xbox 360's stellar numbers.

Looking ahead, there's reason to believe that the Xbox 360 will continue this surge through the holidays. The console has some major game title releases yet to come, such as the eagerly awaited Call of Duty: Black Ops in November. And Microsoft is now reporting that its Kinect motion control add-on for the Xbox 360 is already selling out less than a month before its release. "Kinect preorders are selling out at retailers nationwide," the company noted. "This is sign of strong consumer demand before launch on November 4."

Microsoft also has reason to believe it can continue this pace well into the future. Whereas both Microsoft and Sony spent years and billions of dollars developing alternatives to the Wii's motion-control scheme—-Kinect and Move, respectively—Nintendo has yet to announce, let alone release, an HD version of its once-popular Wii console. With HDTVs flooding the US market, gamers both casual and hardcore are looking for consoles that deliver HD graphics. And the Wii simply isn't up to the task.

To date, Microsoft has sold roughly as many consoles this year as Nintendo has, and if these sales trends continue, Microsoft will actually beat Nintendo this year—for the first time ever. This turnaround can almost certainly be attributed to the quiet, reliable new Xbox 360 S console that Microsoft introduced mid-year. After three straight years of flat sales, Microsoft's console could surge forward with a gain of as much as 35 percent, year over year, for 2010, with some expecting the Xbox 360 to sell as many as 6.2 million units this year alone. The company sold approximately 4.7 million units each year from 2007 to 2009.

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