Beatles Give Video Game Industry a Boost

The video game industry halts a six-month sales decline as titles such as "The Beatles: Rock Band" and console price cuts entice consumers.

The NPD Group reports the highly anticipated video game "The Beatles: Rock Band," was the third-highest selling title for the month of September, selling 595,000 copies and outperforming rival game "Guitar Hero 5," which sold 499,000 copies in September. Two sequels, "Halo 3: ODST" and "Madden NFL 10" topped the sales list at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Total sales of software and consoles rose 1 percent to $1.28 billion in September, breaking a six-month decline.

Nintendo's portable DS platform led the month in hardware sales, selling 524,00 units, while Sony's recently redesigned and re-priced PlayStation 3 (PS3) console moved nearly 492,000 units. Nintendo's motion-sensitive Wii console sold 462,800 units and the Microsoft Xbox 360 sold 352,600 units, according to the NPD. Sony's portable platform, the PSP, rounded out the top five with 190,400 PlayStation Portables sold.

"On a unit sales basis, the industry was flat," NPD analyst Anita Frazier wrote in an e-mailed statement. "The increase in revenues is driven by a rise in average retail prices in all categories with the exception of console hardware in which the average retail price decreased 8 percent from last September."

Frazier noted all three console manufacturers realized the impact of lower console prices on unit sales; Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo each announced price cuts to their gaming systems earlier this autumn. "The PS3, Wii, and Xbox 360 realized an increase over August of 87 percent, 33 percent, and 31 percent, respectively" on a per-week basis, said Frazier.

Since February, video game sales continued an economic slide until August, when sales fell 16 percent, to $908.7 million. As the holiday shopping season fast approaches, the industry is hoping to lure customers with sharp discounts on consoles. Sony recently cut the price of the PS3 to $299 and last week announced a new PS3 system with a 250GB hard drive that will hit store shelves on Nov. 3. The PS3 250GB system has the same design and features as the 120GB system, but with a 250GB built-in hard drive and a cost of $349.99.

Jack Tretton, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America, told The Wall Street Journal the company envisioned the reaction would be positive, but it exceeded even their best expectations. "To return to growth pre-holiday is certainly good news," he added. Competitors Microsoft and Nintendo also recently cut prices on their console systems, with the Xbox 360 reducing in price to $299 and the Wii getting a $50 price cut, putting the console at $199.