By Scott Hillis
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. sales of video-game hardware and software jumped more than 50 percent in November, driven by record purchases of Nintendo Co Ltd's Wii console and several new blockbuster games, industry data showed on Thursday.
A rising consumer tide ahead of the holidays lifted all three major console makers, with Microsoft Corp laying claim to the biggest chunk of total spending and Sony Corp boasting the biggest single-month gain.
In terms of hardware units, Nintendo remained on top of the U.S. market as it sold 981,000 Wiis. That was the best showing since its November 2006 launch, according to market research firm NPD.
The Wii has been in hot demand due largely to its unique motion-sensing controller and simpler games that have drawn customers outside the traditional base of young males.
"I think there's enough heat around the Wii that there's a sense of urgency to go find it and find it early. People went out in November and whenever they could see it, they bought it," George Harrison, vice president of marketing for Nintendo of America, told Reuters.
Total U.S. sales of video-game hardware and software hit $2.63 billion in November, up 52 percent from $1.74 billion a year earlier, NPD said.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 console sold 770,000 units, NPD said. Microsoft said spending on Xbox hardware, games and accessories totaled $763 million, or about 30 percent of the industry's total monthly sales.
"We're sweeping on all the games ... we've got the games people want to play," said Microsoft spokesman David Dennis, noting that four of the top 10 games were for the Xbox 360.
Sony's PS3, which has lagged its rivals this year, sold 466,000 units in November, almost quadruple the previous month's figure, as a price cut and a new slate of games finally drew consumer attention to the machine.
Nintendo also sold 1.53 million of its DS handheld device while Sony sold 567,000 of its PlayStation Portable.
Activision Inc had the top-selling video game, the military-themed shooter "Call of Duty 4," which sold more than 2.01 million copies for the Xbox 360 and PS3, NPD said.
Another Activision game, "Guitar Hero 3", sold 1.9 million copies for the Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and Sony's older PlayStation 2. That game has sold 3.3 million units since its end-October launch, NPD said.
Historical action game "Assassin's Creed" from France's Ubisoft sold nearly 1.36 million copies for the Xbox 360 and PS3, while Nintendo's whimsical "Super Mario Galaxy" for the Wii sold 1.12 million copies.
Other top games were Nintendo's "Wii Play", which comes bundled with an extra controller, and the sci-fi epics "Mass Effect" and "Halo 3", both from Microsoft.