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PlayStation 2 leads holiday sales

Despite strong competition from Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's PlayStation 2 leads holiday sales of video game consoles, according researcher NPD Intelect.

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PS2 toys with competition
Peter Glaskowsky, senior analyst, Cahners In-Stat Group
As expected, Sony's PlayStation 2 is leading holiday sales of video game consoles, despite strong competition from Microsoft's Xbox, according to sales figures from research firm NPD Intelect.

Sony sold 1.4 million units of the PlayStation 2 in the United States in the fourth quarter through Dec. 8, according to sales figures tallied by NPD and compiled in a report released by Credit Suisse First Boston. Microsoft trailed slightly, selling 934,000 copies of its Xbox through Dec. 8. Nintendo came in a more distant third with 615,000 units of its GameCube console. The Xbox went on sale Nov. 15; the GameCube debuted Nov. 18.

Xbox sales were on track to reach 1.5 million units by the end of the year, in line with the high end of Microsoft's estimates, according to the Credit Suisse reports.

"We're really happy with the sales so far," James Bernard, Xbox product manager for Microsoft, told CNET News.com on Tuesday. "When you compare our first few weeks to Sony's first few weeks with the PlayStation 2 last year, we're way ahead," he said, referring to Sony's lingering supply problems with the console when it was introduced last November.

Sony, which cited more recent NPD data to tally sales of some 1.5 million PS2s from Thanksgiving week on, credited its lead in large part to hot new software titles such as "Grand Theft Auto 3" and "Metal Gear Solid 2."

"Clearly, data for the first month of the holiday sales season indicates that the entire PlayStation family of products will soundly outsell all competitors combined, despite the heralded introduction of new game consoles during this important month," Jack Tretton, senior vice president for Sony Computer Entertainment of America, said in a statement.

Nintendo representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Credit Suisse report also noted strong growth in software sales, with game software leader Electronic Arts posting $247.3 million in sales to date for the fourth quarter, a 37.8 percent jump from the $179.5 million recorded in same period last year.

On Wednesday, NPD said the video game industry has made solid gains this year, with combined U.S. hardware and software sales of $6.4 billion from January through November, compared with $4.7 billion in the same period last year.

"This substantial growth over the past 11 months, especially in November, was just what the industry needed," Ilene Haase, director of video games research for NPDFunworld, said in a statement. "Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube launches were both instrumental as consumer anticipation climaxed in November."