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US video game sales hurt by lack of hits

LACKING the big hits that made last year a standout, United States video game sales dropped sharply in April for the second month in a row as customers continued to watch their wallets.

Market researcher NPD group said yesterday that retail sales of game software, hardware and accessories dropped 17 percent last month, to US$1.03 billion. Software sales plunged 23 percent to US$510.7 million, more than many analysts had expected. Hardware sales, meanwhile, declined 8 percent to US$391.6 million.

A major culprit for the year-on-year decline was last year's launch of blockbuster "Grand Theft Auto IV," which raked in more than US$500 million within a week of its launch in April, 2008.

The handheld Nintendo DS was the month's best-selling gaming system, which was not a surprise considering the recent launch of the new DSi model.

In all, Americans bought more than 1 million DS systems in April. Of these, Nintendo said about 800,000 were sales of the new DSi, a slimmer, more interactive version of the system that includes two digital cameras.

Nintendo's Wii console came in a distant second, selling 340,000 units. The company estimates it has about a 70 percent share of the US gaming hardware market.

Microsoft Corp's Xbox 360 sold 175,000 units, only slightly more than the nine-year-old PlayStation 2 from Sony Corp.

"This is a testament to the impact a price reduction can have on hardware acquisition, with price being only second to compelling new content as a catalyst for hardware sales," said NPD analyst Anita Frazier.



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