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Game sales shrunk, but Xbox set records in 2010

The games industry put up less impressive numbers than last year, however Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the accessory market made some of their biggest moves yet.

Despite high watermarks like Microsoft selling 8 million Kinect accessories in 60 days, as well as more Xbox 360 units than it ever has before, 2010's overall gaming sales shrunk compared with last year.

The NPD Group, which published its December and annual reports for video games in 2010 earlier today, said total video game sales for the year were $18.58 billion. That's compared with sales of $19.66 billion for 2009, and $21.4 billion in 2008.

NPD said the loss can be attributed to both a 13 percent dip in console hardware spending, as well as a 6 percent drop in the sale of new video game software year-on-year. Consumer spending for new and used games, as well as downloadable content also flattened or dropped by one percent, the firm said. Video game accessories, on the other hand, enjoyed a hearty jump at 13 percent above 2009's numbers, as well as sales of $853.2 million for just the month December.

One of the big standouts of the year was Microsoft's Xbox 360, which sold 42 percent more consoles during 2010 than it did the year before. December in particular was quite kind for the five-year-old gaming platform, giving it its best sales month ever at 1.9 million units sold.

In order to make those numbers happen, Microsoft said it made available units from its January and February production runs. "Despite this, Microsoft still experienced out of supply situations in late December, and it expects supply constraint to continue in January and February as it works with retail and manufacturing partners to expedite production and shipments to replenish the channel," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement, confirming news of the shortages from earlier in the day.

Even with its high December numbers, the top spot for top overall hardware sales for the year went to Nintendo's DS systems at more than 8.5 million sold, and the Wii on the console side at 7 million sold. For the month of December, Nintendo sold 2.5 million DS units, and 2.3 million Wiis respectively.

PC gaming had a small comeback in 2010, growing 3 percent over its 2009 numbers in terms of moving physical retail software. NPD said consumers were spending more on used games, game downloads, and digital copies of games too. Leading the pack in December for PC software sales was Blizzard's World of Warcraft: Cataclysm expansion pack. NPD also highlighted the much-anticipated Starcraft sequel, Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty as combining with WoW for 14 percent of the total PC game sales during the year.

On the console side, Activision's Call of Duty: Black Ops grabbed at the top spot, managing to sell more than 12 million copies in less than two months. That was followed by EA's Madden NFL 11, Microsoft's Halo: Reach, and Nintendo's New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

See also: Analyst: Wii down, Xbox 360 way up in December