Tue Jan 16, 7:09 PM
By Neil Davidson
TORONTO (CP) - Canadians spent a record $933 million on video gaming in 2006, up 22 per cent from the previous year.
The amount spent in 2005 for video game hardware, software and accessories was $765 million, according to figures provided by the NPD Group which tracks the industry.
While 2006 saw the release of both the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii in mid-November, supplies were tight for both new systems. Still, hardware, both portable and console systems, accounted for $349 million in 2006, up 43 per cent from a year ago.
Darrel Ryce, director of technology and entertainment for the NPD Group, says the increase is no surprise.
"You've got the 360, that in 2006 really hit its stride," he said in an interview. "You've got the introduction of the (Nintendo) Wii, the introduction of the PlayStation 3. You've got Nintendo bringing out the DS Lite system - when that product hit the market, DS hardware sales took off."
The Lite was a smaller, sleeker version of the Nintendo DS handheld system, which ended the year as was the top-selling platform in Canada in 2006 with 374,000 units.
In comparison, the Wii ranked seventh with sales of just over 84,000 units, while the PS3 was eighth with a little more than 45,000.
The PlayStation 2, which became more attractive as prices were cut in the leadup to the PS3, finished at No. 2 with 327,000 units. The Xbox 360 was No. 3 at 252,000 followed by the Nintendo Game Boy Advance (237,000), the Sony PSP (176,500) and the Nintendo GameCube (89,000).
The original Xbox was ninth (32,000).
In all, 1.62 million systems - both portable and consoles - were sold in 2006. That compares to 1.35 million in 2005.
The Wii outsold the PS3 in November, but the PS3 outsold its rival in December as Sony managed to get more units to market.
"It was all supply," said Ryce. "In both cases, if there had been a higher level of inventory out there, they definitely would have sold more. These were the two hottest need-to-find kind of articles for Christmas this year.
"Everybody was talking about them."
Video game software totalled $481 million in revenue for the year, up 10 per cent from the $436 million the year before.
Accessories were up 24 per cent - a little under $104 million compared to $84 million in 2005.
December accounted for 29 per cent of the entire video game industry revenue for the year.
"It was a pretty competitive holiday season, for sure," Ryce said.
In the U.S., the video game industry rang up sales of US$12.5 billion in 2006 - up 19 per cent from 2005.
Ryce expects another bumper year in 2007, as the software menu for the new systems grows - and Canadians expand their gaming options.
"Over the last few years, we're seeing that Canadians are more than willing to accept the newer systems and to have more than one system in their house," he said.
Ryce also anticipates the competition between Sony's PlayStation, Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's Wii next-generation consoles to escalate.
"All three of them have some real nice systems out there. It's going to be quite a battle this year, for sure."
Hockey once again topped the Canadian sales charts for the year.
The PlayStation 2 version of Electronic Arts' "NHL 07," developed in Burnaby, B.C., repeated as the top-selling game in Canada. The Xbox 360 version of the game was No. 11 while the Xbox edition was No. 14.
The rival "NHL 2K7" game (PS2) from 2K Games was 19th on the sales chart.
Nintendo's new "Super Mario Bros" for the DS was second on the 2006 chart.
"Gears of War" (Xbox 360) was third and would have been higher had it not been released in November. The dark, futuristic third-person shooter from Epic Games was No. 1 in both November and December.
"Final Fantasy X11" (PS2) and "The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess" (Wii), another pair of November releases, were No. 4 and 5, respectively on the 2006 sales chart.
The rest of the top 10 consisted of "Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories" (PS2), "Super Mario 64 DS" (Nintendo DS), "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" (PS2), "Brain Age: Trust Your Brain" (Nintendo DS) and "Gran Turismo 4" (PS2).
PlayStation accounted for nine of the top 20 titles while Nintendo had seven (four DS, one Wii, one GameCube and one Game Boy Advance) and Xbox four (three 360 and one Xbox).