Editor’s note: John Gaudiosi is a national journalist who has been covering the video game business for more than a decade. In addition to the Gaming Guru blog for WRAL.com and covering gaming companies for WRAL Local Tech Wire, he also writes about gaming for Wired Magazine, The Washington Post, Xbox.com and Yahoo! Games.

CARY – If the normally dead summer doldrums videogame sales are any indication, the game industry is on pace to record growth by the time the crystal ball drops in New York’s Times Square this January.

According to The NPD Group, the tracking firm that calculates actual game sales, through July of this year, sales have already topped $7 billion. The month of July, alone, brought in nearly $1 billion. Traditionally, summer months are slow for games with kids outside and families traveling.

Also, most big game releases come in the fall, when the months of November and December account for over half of annual sales. But this year’s been different, thanks in large part to Wii and Nintendo DS sales. PlayStation 2 continues to sell well and both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 received sales bumps with recent price cuts.

The industry is also starting to slowly release big games during the summer. The new Guitar Hero: Rocks the 80s and NCAA Football 08 topped sales charts, along with Wii titles Mario Party 8, Pokemon Battle Revolution and Big Brain Academy. Keep in mind, July sales did not include powerhouse releases like Madden NFL 08, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, Metroid Prime 3, and BioShock.

The NPD Group predicts that total game sales for 2007 could top $16 billion. That’s huge when you consider 2006 accounted for $13.5 billion (and that included PC game sales, which aren’t in the new forecast yet). NPD said game sales could reach $18 billion–and that’s despite the delay of Grand Theft Auto IV until 2008.

This fall will see killer apps like Halo 3, Mass Effect, Project Gotham Racing 4, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros., Lair, Ratchet & Clank Future, and Heavenly Sword.

Here are the top 10 best sellers (by units sold) for July from The NPD Group:

1. NCAA Football 08—360—EA—397,000
2. Guitar Hero Encore Rocks the 80s—PS2—Activision—339,000
3. Wii Play w/remote—Wii—Nintendo—278,000
4. NCAA Football 08—PS2—EA—236,000
5. Mario Party 8—Wii—Nintendo—177,000
6. NCAA Football 08—PS3—EA—156,000
7. Pokemon Diamond—DS—Nintendo—144,000
8. Transformers: The Game—PS2—Activision—143,000
9. Guitar Hero II w/guitar—PS2—Activision—138,000
10. Guitar Hero II w/guitar—360—Activision—108,000