Video game players shrugged off the recession last month by taking out their economic anxieties on fighting and exercise games.
Game revenue grew 9% in February to $733.5 million, powered by the release of titles based on popular franchises such as Street Fighter and Killzone, according to a report Thursday by tracking firm NPD Group Inc.
"Software sales were remarkable, given that last February's sales spiked 48% with the release of Super Smash Bros.," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. "That was a tough game to beat. But they did it."
Overall industry sales, which included game consoles, rose 10% over the same period last year. The growth nearly doubled the expectations of several Wall Street analysts and would have been even higher if not for lower game prices.
"Consumers picked up nearly 20 million units of video game software in February, a 14% increase," said Anita Frazier, an analyst with NPD Group. "The average retail price for games is 4% lower than last year, which is why the dollar sales increase is not quite keeping in pace with the increase in unit sales."
Among the top titles in February were Street Fighter IV, a fighting game from Capcom that sold 849,000 copies, and Killzone 2, a gritty action game from Sony Corp. that sold 323,000 copies.
Nintendo Co. dominated the month, with five of the top 10 titles including Wii Fit, Wii Play, Wii Mario Kart, Mario Kart DS and New Super Mario Bros.
Activision Blizzard Inc., based in Santa Monica, took seventh place with its combat adventure game Call of Duty: World at War, and 10th place with its music simulation title Guitar Hero World Tour.
Console makers also enjoyed a strong month, reaping $532.7 million, up 11% from a year ago. Nintendo's Wii remained in hot demand, with 753,000 units sold, and Microsoft Corp. sold 391,000 Xbox 360s. Sony sold 276,000 PlayStation 3 consoles, 131,000 PS2s and 199,000 PSP hand-held gaming devices.
Console sales carry very slim profit margins for their manufacturers. Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft make money on selling software and collecting royalties from companies that publish games on their consoles.
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Top U.S. video games in February
Title (platform) and units sold
1. Wii Fit
(Nintendo Wii) 644,000
2. Street Fighter IV
(Xbox 360) 446,000
3. Street Fighter IV (PlayStation 3) 403,000
4. Wii Play (Wii) 386,000
5. Killzone 2 (PS3) 323,000
6. Wii Mario Kart
7. Call of Duty: World at War (Xbox 360) 193,000
8. Mario Kart DS
(Nintendo DS) 145,000
9. New Super Mario Bros. (DS) 144,000
10. Guitar Hero World Tour (Wii) 136,000