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[In this exclusive analysis, Gamasutra analyst Matt Matthews looks in more detail at October's NPD U.S. game hardware/software sales, revealing guitar wars, top-selling games so far this year, and much more.]
Despite the increasingly pessimistic outlook for the American economy, the videogame industry defied gravity – again – and reported a 17% year-on-year increase in revenue for the month of October.
With three established current generation consoles, much of the focus has shifted to software releases like Guitar Hero: World Tour and Fable II.
Regardless, when over 800,000 Wii systems sell during October and Xbox 360 sales are up 34% from September, hardware still has its own story to tell.
The holiday season appears to have come early for Nintendo and Microsoft, with sales of the Wii and Xbox 360 very strong headed into the two biggest retail months of the year. In particular, an astounding 803,000 Wii systems were sold in October, the largest monthly sales number for that platform outside of November and December 2007.
That figure represents 55% growth from October of last year and an increase of 46% from the rate last month (up to 200,000 systems per week, versus 137,000 in September).
While Microsoft's Xbox 360 still trails the Wii, it still posted a strong month. The September price cuts appear to be lifting sales for a second month in a row, with October sales reaching nearly 93,000 systems per week.
While the console only marked a 1% increase over last year's October, the comparison is somewhat unfair: Microsoft had just cut prices in August 2007 and released Halo 3 in late September. When compared to the previous month, September 2008, sales in October of this year were up 34%.
Last year Nintendo and Microsoft saw sales of their respective consoles roughly double going from October to November. If that were to hold true again this year, Microsoft would look very well, but Nintendo would hit nearly unbelievable levels, well over 1.5 million systems in November.
The nearest comparison in recent memory would be last November when the Nintendo DS hit 1.5 million units (following up with nearly 2.5 million in December).
Sony's PlayStation 3 once again brings up the rear for current generation hardware, with 47,500 systems per week during October 2008. That means Sony's sales rate has been nearly constant for three months running, but in particular it does not show the increasing sales enjoyed by its competitors.
In fact, Sony's consistent, low-intensity sales have allowed Microsoft's Xbox 360 to catch up in year-to-date sales.
As of the end of August the PlayStation 3 enjoyed a 277,000 system YTD lead over the Xbox 360, but at the end of October the roles were reversed with Microsoft enjoying a lead of just over 18,000 systems.