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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 10:24 GMT
Handhelds help game firms prosper
Shop sold out of Xbox 260 console, PA
Shortages of the Xbox 360 dented sales figures for 2005
Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) and Nintendo's DS handheld helped US sales of games reach a record high last year.

In 2005 Americans spent $10.5bn (5.93bn) on consoles, games, handhelds and accessories, reported market analysts, the NPD Group.

But booming sales of handhelds mask declining interest in current consoles, sales of which fell 3%.

NPD said the fall was due to gamers delaying purchases in anticipation of next generation gaming devices.

Waiting game

Total sales in 2005 were 6% up on 2004, beating the previous high of $10.3bn set in 2002.

The record sales of that year were helped by the late 2001 launch of both Nintendo's GameCube and Microsoft's original Xbox, which triggered price wars among console makers.

But, said NPD, in 2005 the success stories were portable gaming gadgets such as the PSP and DS.

This was reflected in figures which showed that sales of portable games fell in 2005 but gamers had spent more on hardware.

Still selling strongly were games for Nintendo's GameBoy Advance.

By contrast to the interest in mobile game gadgets, gamers seemed to be losing interest in the current crop of consoles.

Sales of consoles were down 3% and of games 12% noted NPD. It put this down to the late 2005 launch of the Xbox 360 and the forthcoming launches of Sony's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution.

Separately analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities told Reuters that unit sales of the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube were down 19%.

Sales figures for 2005 might have been even higher if more Xbox 360s made it into shops. The console sold out in almost every territory it was launched in and shortages left many gamers frustrated.

Despite this NPD, in a different report, noted that Microsoft had sold more than 600,000 360s in the US since it hit the shops in November.

In a statement Microsoft said it was on target to sell between 4.5 and 5.5 million units by 30 June.

To compile its figures for the video games market, NPD counts approximately two-thirds of retail sales in US stores. Sales of PC games are not included in the final tally.

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