Nintendo's Wii helps drive revenues in competitive video-game industry

Nintendo Co. was the big winner in the video-game console race last year with sold-out sales of its Wii console helping to send industry revenue soaring 43 percent to $17.9 billion last year in the U.S., according to a report released Thursday.

Sony Corp., once the reigning champion with its PlayStation brand, came in last place out of the three major makers, hobbled by a console that cost nearly double the $250 price tag of the Wii, according to the report by market research company NPD Group.

Shoppers snapped up 6.3 million Wii boxes last year, compared with 2.6 million PS3 consoles, according to NPD. Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp. held its own, selling 4.6 million Xbox 360s priced between $280 and $450.

"What these numbers tell me is that the closer you get to the magic $200 price point, the better your sales," said analyst Rob Enderle of consulting company the Enderle Group.

Since launching its PS consoles in November 2006, Sony has sold 3.25 million consoles in the U.S., while Nintendo has sold 7.4 million Wiis. Because Microsoft released its Xbox 360 in November 2005, a year ahead of its competitors, the Redmond, Wash., company sold 9.15 million consoles, giving it the overall lead.

"Microsoft has a pretty serious lead over Sony," said analyst Van Baker at research company Gartner Inc. "It's unclear whether Sony can catch up. the end of this year, the game will largely be over. This is a critical year for Sony."

In 2008, some analysts predict that Sony will gain momentum, boosted by a lineup of hotly anticipated games that include the final episode of the best-selling "Metal Gear Solid" series, new installments of "Kill Zone" and "Devil May Cry" games and "Little Big Planet," a new franchise that has garnered buzz among critics.

Microsoft last year benefitted from the release of its "Halo 3" game, which sold 4.8 million copies in the U.S., making it the best-selling game in 2007. So far, however, it lacks a title this year that can match the fire power of "Halo 3."

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