SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. sales of video games and hardware rose 37 percent in July, with Sony Corp.'s (SNE) struggling PlayStation 3 console getting a major boost from a price cut in the month, industry data showed on Thursday.
Total sales hit $925.5 million in the month, compared with $675.6 million a year earlier, spurred by strong interest in consoles from Sony, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Nintendo Co. Ltd., figures from market research firm NPD showed.
Sony sold 159,000 units of the PlayStation 3, which had seen monthly sales drop to less than 100,000 units in each of the previous three months, after cutting the price by $100, to $500.
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"That was exciting and very much in line with expectations, especially since we're talking about the doldrums of summer," Jack Tretton, head of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said in an interview.
It was the best month for the PS3 since January, when U.S. consumers bought 244,000 of the machines. The PS3 includes a 60-gigabyte hard drive and a Blu-ray Disc high-definition DVD player, but its high price and dearth of must-have games have hampered sales.
"It certainly has us very optimistic, along with the software lineup we have for the fall," Tretton said.
Sony also sold 222,000 units of its older PlayStation 2 console.
NPD said console sales rose more than 140 percent from a year earlier, to $286 million. Total software sales rose 11 percent on the year to $419 million.
Nintendo's Wii console held onto the top spot with sales of 425,000 units. The machine's $250 price is the lowest of any new console, and its unique motion-sensing controller has drawn buyers outside of the core gaming crowd.
Microsoft sold 170,000 of its Xbox 360 console, down 18 percent from a year earlier but better than some analysts had expected given the company's admission last month that widespread failures of the machines could cost it more than $1 billion in repairs and warranty extensions.
On the software front, "NCAA Football 08" for the Xbox 360 was the top title, selling 397,000 copies.
The PS2 version of the game sold 236,000 units, while the PS3 version sold 156,000 units. The game is published by Electronic Arts Inc. (ERTS)
Activision Inc's (ATVI) "Guitar Hero" franchise also took three of the top 10 spots, with "Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s," released only on the PS2, placing second with 339,000 copies sold.
Nintendo's best game was "Wii Play," which is bundled with an extra controller and whose 278,000 units sold was good enough for second place.
Nintendo's "Mario Party 8" came in fifth place while "Pokemon Diamond" for the DS handheld was seventh.