With Electronic Arts opening up shop in the Triangle and a half-dozen other game makers, lead by Epic Games and Red Storm Entertainment, already entrenched here, the future of gaming has never looked brighter.

Why? Sales are booming.

Although there’s still a crucial month of sales left (November and December typically account for half of annual game sales), January through November sales data from The NPD Group show that this year has already topped last year’s annual total.

Videogame sales through the end of November raked in $13.12 billion (and that doesn’t include PC game sales). Hardware sales are up 73 percent year-to-date, and console sales, thanks in large part to Nintendo’s Wii, are up 103 percent.

According to Anita Frazier, videogame analyst for The NPD Group, when 2007’s totals are tabulated, total game hardware, software and accessory sales should easily top $18 billion and break all previous records.

The local companies are quiet in the sales charts right now. The NPD Group has not released PC game sales for November yet, and those would include Epic’s "Gears of War" and "Unreal Tournament 3" games. Epic is shipping UT3 for PS3 this month. A year ago, Epic’s "Gears of War" for Xbox 360 set sales records, with totals eventually reaching several million.

For the month of November, total game hardware, software and accessory sales topped $2.63 billion (which is up 52 percent over last November). Game sales were up 62 percent to $1.3 billion, and hardware sales were up 41 percent to $1.1 billion. Accessory sales, driven by Wii controllers, were up 52 percent to $243 million for the month.

Nintendo continued to lead the field with its one-two punch of Nintendo DS (1.53 million hardware units sold in November) and Wii (981,000 units sold). Nintendo has yet to be able to keep up with the overwhelming demand for Wii since the console launched in November 2006. Microsoft sold 770,000 Xbox 360s, and Sony sold 466,000 PlayStation 3. While Sony’s older platforms continued to outsell the more expensive PS3 (Sony sold 496,000 PS2s and a very healthy 567,000 PSPs), there was good news for PS3.

"The combination of the price cut and seasonal lift gave the PS3 the biggest October-to-November sales increase of any hardware platform," Frazier said. "The Nintendo DS and Xbox 360 both realized their second-best sales months yet, after December of last year. "The Wii had its best-selling month yet, besting last December by 60 percent. Since there is still an evident inventory shortage at retail, it’s difficult to say just how high sales could be if you took that issue out of the equation."

Activision’s "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" lead all game sales on Xbox 360, with 1.57 million units sold (an additional 444,000 PS3 copies were sold). Nintendo’s "Super Mario Galaxy" for Wii raked in 1.12 million copies. When combining platforms, Activision’s "Guitar Hero III" (967,00 units sold on PS2 and 426,000 units sold on Wii) and Ubisoft’s "Assassin’s Creed" (980,000 units sold on Xbox 360 and 377,000 units sold on PS3) both topped the 1 million-unit mark.

"’Assassin’s Creed’ has earned a spot in the history books as the best-selling new IP at launch, besting the previous record held by ‘Gears of War,’” said Frazier, noting that the game has since sold a total of 2.5 million units.

"Across all platforms, ‘Guitar Hero III’ sold 1.9 million units in November. On a year-to-date basis, ‘Guitar Hero III’ has sold 3.3 million units in the U.S., and ‘Guitar Hero II’ is right behind it at 3.1 million units."

Electronic Arts’ "Rock Band" bundle, which retails for $160 to $170, sold 382,000 units in its first month due to low inventory. Frazier said this game can easily build momentum in December and throughout 2008.

Microsoft said that Xbox 360 software generated $367 million compared with $203 for Wii and PS3 at $129 million. Xbox 360’s software attach rate was 6.9. Sony said PlayStation total software revenue in November accounted for $414 million, which was an increase of 128 percent compared with last month’s sales. In November, retail dollars from PS3 sales totaled $138 million, a 192 percent increase over October sales.

Videogame accessory sales took in $243 million for November, which was a 52 percent year-on-year increase. Life-to-date sales of Microsoft’s HD-DVD drive are 269,000 units sold, which represents a 3.4 percent attach rate to the Xbox 360 installed base. Nintendo continues to generate accessory sales. Four out of five of the best selling accessories were Wii controllers. The Wii Zapper sold 232,000 units, and the second-best-selling accessory for November was the PS3 wireless controller, selling 282,000.

"With the biggest month of the year yet to go, total industry sales are on track to achieve between $18 billion and $19 billion in the U.S.,” said Frazier.

Top 10 Game Sales for November

1. 360 "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare," Activision—1.57 million
2. Wii "Super Mario Galaxy," Nintendo—1.12 million
3. 360 "Assassin’s Creed," Ubisoft—980,000
4. PS2 "Guitar Hero III," Activision—967,000
5. Wii "Play w/ Remote," Nintendo—564,000
6. 360 "Mass Effect," Microsoft—473,000
7. PS3 "Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare," Activision—444,000
8. Wii "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock," Activision—426,000
9. 360 "Halo 3," Microsoft—387,000
10. PS3 "Assassin’s Creed"—377,000

November Hardware Sales

1. Nintendo DS – 1.53 million (from 458k)
2. Wii – 981K (from 519k)
3. Xbox 360 – 770K (from 366k)
4. PSP – 567K (from 286k)
5. PlayStation 2 – 496K (from 184k)
6. PlayStation 3 – 466K (from 121k)