U.S. video game sales up in March

Top-selling "Gran Turismo 4" racing game, improved supply of console hardware push growth.

Video game sales rose 32 percent in the United States in March, analysts said on Friday, noting Sony's top-selling "Gran Turismo 4" racing game, as well as an improved supply of console hardware.

Citing figures from market researcher The NPD Group, analysts also said Sony new PlayStation Portable handheld gaming unit sold 620,000 units of hardware in the month and 1.1 million pieces of software. The PSP was released on March 24.

By comparison, Nintendo's DS dual-screen handheld has sold 428,000 units this year, analysts said, quoting NPD. The DS, which costs $100 less than the PSP, launched last year.

The supply of Sony's PlayStation 2 console continued to improve, analysts said, with 495,000 sold in the month, compared with 227,000 units of Microsoft's Xbox and 94,000 units of Nintendo's GameCube.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the Xbox is in short supply, a situation some retailers fear may continue through the year as the company prepares to launch its next-generation console, most likely around the holidays.

"Gran Turismo 4" led game sales in the month, with more than 532,000 units sold, followed by the value-priced "MVP Baseball 2005" from Electronic Arts at just under 338,000 units.

Most analysts expect U.S. software sales to grow about 5 percent in 2005, driven by growing sales for handheld devices like the PSP and DS.

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