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Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo Flaunt Favorite Facts From NPD

The games biz's October growth beat expectations, and as is customary, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo parse out the facts and stats that show off their best side, proudly highlighting promises fulfilled and growth achieved -- and delicately sidestepping unm
October's NPD results, just released yesterday, showed encouraging growth for the industry, in a month that analysts and execs believed would be a litmus test for the games biz in a forbidding economy. Software sales growth in particular handily beat estimates at about 35 percent -- but, as is customary, it's the big three hardware manufacturers who've each found their own reasons to celebrate. Sony: No Victory, But Big Growth It's Sony who perhaps faces the stiffest barriers to gloating; its PlayStation 3 sold just 190,000 units, coming in fourth among all current platforms, topped by its own PSP and within sight of the last-gen PlayStation 2, widely considered to be declining, at 136,000 units. But while it may be well behind the Xbox 360, there are signs the PS3 is gaining impressive momentum, says Sony, noting that PS3 sales grew 54 percent year over year, even compared to a month in which the console received a price cut. And according to the company, PS3 software sales have doubled year over year. "With the holiday shopping season officially kicking off in November, strong software sales are expected to continue with ongoing momentum on LittleBigPlanet and the launch of Resistance 2," said the company in a statement. Sony also highlighted 166 percent growth in the PlayStation Network's user registration, revealing that the total number of PSN registrations is up to 14 million. Overall, Sony says, it took in $131 million in hardware revenue in October, up 19 percent, while first-party software revenue was $209 million, up 23 percent. Microsoft: Strong Software Even though Microsoft cut hardware prices in October, often gloating that its Arcade SKU's "sweet spot" $199 Arcade pricing put it below that of the Wii, both of Nintendo's platforms beat the Xbox 360. At 371,000 units, Microsoft didn't even come close to the dominating Wii, and was beaten by the DS to the tune of over 100,000 units -- even while analysts have claimed demand for Nintendo's handheld is beginning to plateau. And although the company boldly predicted it would trump the PS3 by a ratio of 2:1, it just missed by 9,000 units. While that's close, 'nearly' does not a goal fulfillment make. So with hardware sales that, while impressive, didn't quite walk Microsoft's big talk, the company sensibly elected to focus on its software strengths. It's notable that Fable II, despite being exclusive to Xbox 360, topped software sales by a wide margin, well above multiplatform software whose marketing campaigns were as visible. The game has sold 1.5 million units globally since launch, and Microsoft calls it the fastest-selling RPG on Xbox 360. The company's now claiming an 8:1 attach rate for software, spending on which reached $244 million during October. Specifically, the company highlighted its strong relationship with third-party publishers, who sold $171 million on the Xbox 360, or 57 percent share. Nintendo: Wide Appeal Is Still On Top "Wider appeal can also translate to longer appeal and maybe even to better appeal," said Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime at the BMO Capital Markets event -- right before the NPD results arrived to bear his statement out. At around 803,000 units sold, the Wii was far and away the best-selling hardware on the month as, according to analysts, supply constraints loosened a little. With the DS at 491,000, Nintendo claimed the top two hardware spots for the month. And while the company had no new October titles chart in the software top 10, it apparently did not need them. Wii Fit's sales for the month came in second behind Microsoft's Fable 2, and, as consumer blog MTV Multiplayer noticed, Activision's Guitar Hero: World Tour sold better on Wii than on any other platform, even without charting. Mario Kart Wii -- and Wii Play, a launch title -- continued to make the top ten as well, supporting Fils-Aime's assertion that broad-appeal titles that "question the very definition of a video game" will show consistent month-to-month sales endurance, rather than the early spike and rapid drop-off seen by more traditional core market titles. "Nintendo provides consumers with the best value not only among video games, but also among most entertainment options," Nintendo sales and marketing EVP Cammie Dunaway said. "Nintendo also provides an incomparable range of experiences that everyone can enjoy, whether you’ve been playing for years or are just getting into video games."

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