NEW YORK – Americans spent $1.23 billion on video games, hardware and accessories in April, up 47 percent from a year earlier, even as the price of more essential items like food and gasoline soared.
Nintendo Co. again took the crown in hardware sales, with its Wii console selling more units than Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 combined, according to data from market researcher NPD Group, released late Thursday.
Software sales jumped 68 percent, fueled by "Grand Theft Auto IV" from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., by far the month's top-selling game.
Total hardware sales grew 26 percent to $426.2 million, with the Wii selling 714,200 units, followed by the handheld Nintendo DS at 414,800.
Except the Wii, which saw a small increase, sales of every gaming system declined from last month's figures. The Xbox 360, the PS3 and its predecessor, the PS2, each sold less than 200,000 units.
This was the first time in many months that sales of portable games and hardware declined, said NPD analyst Anita Frazier. But she noted that a calendar shift put Easter in March this year — compared to April last year — which could account for some of the decline.
Nintendo, meanwhile, continues to be "very pleased" with sales of the DS, whose audience is expanding, said Cammie Dunaway, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Nintendo of America.
Software sales surged to $654.7 million from $389.4 million in April a year ago, but still below what some analysts were expecting. Wedbush Morgan's Michael Pachter had estimated software sales of $830 million.
"Grand Theft Auto IV," which launched April 29, was the month's best-selling game. Take-Two previously announced that the title had sold more than 6 million units worldwide in its first week out.
In the U.S., GTA IV sold about 2.9 million units in April for the Xbox 360 and the PS3 the only two systems it is available for. Of this, nearly 1.9 million copies went to the Xbox.
Microsoft and Sony both expect the game, which follows gangster Niko Bellic on crime missions around a fictional Liberty City, to buoy sales of their consoles.
"May will probably give you a better read on (its) impact on hardware," said Aaron Greenberg, director of product management at Xbox 360 and Xbox Live.
Other top-selling games included Nintendo's "Mario Kart Wii," "Wii Play," "Wii Super Smash Bros. Brawl" and "Gran Turismo 5: Prologue" from Sony.