Nintendo's Wii Holds Lead in U.S Video-Game Consoles

Nintendo Co. kept the lead in U.S. video-game console sales with 432,000 Wii players purchased in stores last month, according to NPD Group Inc.

Retailers sold 280,800 of Sony Corp. (6758)'s PlayStation 3 and 254,600 Xbox 360 consoles by Microsoft (MSFT) Corp. in February, the Port Washington, New York-based researcher said today in an e- mailed statement.

Console sales benefited from an increased supply of Wiis and Xbox 360s, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian said in a March 11 report. Demand probably will pick up with the release next month of games including ``Super Smash Bros. Brawl'' for Wii and ``Grand Theft Auto IV'' for the PS3 and Xbox 360, the San Francisco-based analyst wrote.

``This is clearly not an industry feeling a recession,'' Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities in Los Angeles, said in an interview. ``We keep waiting for the bubble to burst but it just seems to keep expanding.''

Sony's PS2 sold 351,800 consoles, a 19 percent increase from the year earlier, NPD said. That's the first increase in PS2 sales since November 2006, Pachter said.

Sales of the older console were helped by its low price, as little as $99 during a weekend sale in Target Corp. stores, and separately, by bundling the console with games such as ``Guitar Hero'' and ``Rock Band,'' said Evan Wilson, an analyst at Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Oregon.

``This is the type of game people are buying a console for,'' Wilson said in an e-mailed message. ``PS2 was the cheapest, most available option.''

Shipments Diverted

Wiis were in short supply in January after Nintendo diverted shipments to Japan for that country's holiday season, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said last month in an interview.

In February, Kyoto, Japan-based Nintendo began increasing U.S. shipments to prepare for ``Smash Bros.,'' Fils-Aime said. Xbox 360s also were scarcer in January because of higher-than- expected demand during the U.S. holiday season, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft said last month.

Nintendo's console sales increased 29 percent from a year earlier, while Sony's more than doubled. Xbox 360 sales gained 12 percent.

``Devil May Cry 4'' from Osaka, Japan-based Capcom Co. (9697)'s U.S. unit sold a combined 528,700 copies for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 to be the top-selling title. Activision Inc. (ATVI)'s ``Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock'' had combined sales of 406,700 for the Wii and PlayStation 2.

Sales of video games, consoles and accessories jumped 34 percent to $1.33 billion from $992.2 million a year earlier. Console sales rose 19 percent to $480 million, video-game sales increased 47 percent to $668.7 million and accessories gained 36 percent to $185.3 million.

Microsoft fell 1 cent to $28.62 today in Nasdaq Stock Market trading. U.S.-traded Sony shares fell 5 cents to $43.31 on the New York Stock Exchange. Nintendo dropped 4.8 percent to 51,300 yen in Osaka.

To contact the reporters on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at jsondag@bloomberg.net.

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