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Nintendo has a good month in November

Troy Wolverton
San Jose San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. - November was a good month for Nintendo - and for the video game industry as a whole.

The Japanese game maker's new console, the Wii, got off to a strong start, its DS and Game Boy Advance dominated the portable market, and its new "Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" game was a big hit, according to market research firm NPD.

Nintendo's robust performance came amid a booming market, as U.S. retail sales of game hardware, software and accessories rose 34 percent in November from the same month a year earlier, according to NPD. The overall numbers were boosted by strong sales of consoles, which rose 103 percent year-over-year to $519 million.

Both Nintendo and Sony introduced new game consoles last month, the Wii and the PlayStation 3, respectively. But Sony's aging PlayStation 2 led the console pack, as consumers bought 664,000 machines.

Sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 more than doubled from October to 511,000 units. But that only barely topped sales of the Wii, which reached 476,000 units. At $250, the Wii costs $50 to $100 less than either version of the Xbox 360. However, unlike Microsoft, Nintendo battled supply constraints with the Wii last month.

Sony's new PlayStation 3 trailed far behind with just 197,000 units sold.

On the portable side, consumers bought 918,000 DS machines in November and another 641,000 Game Boy Advance units. Sony's PlayStation Portable was a distant third, with 412,000 machines sold.

Software sales were not nearly as strong as the overall industry, but they still grew a healthy 15 percent last month to $804 million. The top title was Microsoft's "Gears of War" for the Xbox 360, which sold 1 million copies. Coming in No. 2 was Square Enix's "Final Fantasy XII" for the PlayStation 2.

"Legend of Zelda" was No. 3. Some 87 percent of customers who bought the Wii also bought a copy of Legend of Zelda, an astonishingly high ratio for the industry.

"I guess that's what you get when one of the best-loved video games franchises launches a new title (on the same day as) a new platform," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier said.

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