Madden NFL 09 clobbers the competition

— -- Not surprisingly, Madden NFL 09 pancaked the video game sales competition in August, according to market tracking firm the NPD Group.

The perennial bestselling football game — in its 20th year — took the top three slots among the month's top sellers. The version for the Microsoft Xbox 360 was the No. 1 game, selling 1 million copies, followed by the Sony PlayStation 3 version at 643,000 copies and the PS2 version at 425,400 copies. The Nintendo Wii version sold 115,800 to earn the No. 9 spot on NPD's monthly chart.

"Madden NFL 09 was the top-selling game of the month, and launched with 2.3 million units out of retail doors in its first month, besting last year's (Madden NFL 08) title by 2%," says NPD's Anita Frazier. "Year after year, the industry can count on the Madden release to bring folks into stores during the relatively lazy days of late summer."

Even though August is considered a slow month for video games, industry sales increased 9% over August 2007. However, it was the first single-digit growth increased in more than two years, Frazier says.

Despite the smaller growth, the industry is up 32% year-to-date and remains on target to achieve annual revenues in the range of $22 to $24 billion, she says.

Nintendo continued its dominance in sales of console systems selling 453,000 Wiis, bringing its total in the U.S. since launching the system in Nov. 2006 to about 11.9 million. The Xbox 360 sold 195,200, bringing its total to about 10.9 million, compared to the PS3's 185,400 (5.3 million).

The drop in Wii sales from 555,000 in July surprised analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities. "This is not an issue of demand as the box is sold out everywhere," he says. "Something is going on with supply, possibly stockpiling for holiday, but it is really odd to see supply drop off by that much."

Earlier this week, GameStop CEO Dan DeMatteo expressed concerns that the Wii's sustained popularity will result in shortages again this Christmas shopping season.

"We are hard at work like Santa's elves making sure that consumers who go into retail this holiday season are able to find what they are looking for," says Denise Kaigler, vice president of corporate affairs for Nintendo of America.

Games for the Wii napped four of the top 10 selling slots. In addition to Madden (No. 9), Wii Fit (No. 4) sold 394,900; Mario Kart (No. 5, 328,700), Wii Play (No. 6, 200,200). Guitar Hero: On Tour for the Nintendo DS handheld sold 111,200 at No. 10. Xbox 360 games grabbed the other top spots with fighting game Soul Calibur IV (No. 7, 174,000) and role-player game Too Human (168,200).

With Madden customers voting for the Xbox 360 — and successful sales of Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 and NCAA Football 09, "Xbox 360 is the new home for sports," says Microsoft Group Product Manager David Dennis. "Everyone tries to pigeonhole us in the shooter box but it's just not so." The Xbox 360's $50 price drop earlier this month has resulted in a doubling of sales, he says, "so next month will certainly be interesting."

Sony's Jack Tretton noted that about 33% more PS3 owners bought Madden and Soul Calibur IV than did Xbox 360 owners — a sign that the platform is gaining momentum. "We're looking forward to a solid holiday season," he said.