Just how popular are videogames this year? Through the first five months of 2008, overall sales of game hardware, software and accessories have exceeded $6.58 billion. That’s a 32 percent bump over last year’s record pace. Looking back a decade, 2008 already tops the entire annual take for all game sales in 1997.

According to Anita Frazier, videogame analyst for The NPD Group, 2008 should be another one for the record books. She estimates that by Jan. 1, 2009, U.S. game sales should tally $21 billion to $23 billion. The economic woes that are hitting many industries have actually been helping game sales, as more families choose to play games at home rather than travel. Historically, games have always been recession-proof.

For the month of May, total industry sales accounted for nearly $1.12 billion (up 37 percent year-over-year), while software sales climbed 41 percent to $536.9 million and hardware sales increased 34 percent to $428.6 million. Accessory sales, bolstered by Guitar Hero and Wii controllers, were up 30 percent to $150.8 million.

In the hardware race, Nintendo is gunning for first place overall, despite starting a full year after Microsoft. Nintendo sold 675,100 Wiis in May, bringing its U.S. installed base to 10.2 million. Microsoft has sold 10.3 million Xbox 360s since launch, including 186,600 consoles in May. By the end of June, Nintendo should have first place locked up. Sony sold 208,700 PlayStation 3s in May, bringing its U.S. total to 4.5 million. Sony launched its console at the same time as Nintendo, but its higher price point has resulted in less than half the Nintendo’s hardware sales. Sony’s PlayStation 2 continues to have legs, with 124,400 consoles sold in May. PS2 has an installed base of 42.2 million in the U.S.

In the portable field, Nintendo continued to dominate with Nintendo DS, as that stalwart portable accounted for 452,600 sales in May. Sony sold 182,300 PSPs that month, which was down about 10,000 units from April.

When it comes to games, "Grand Theft Auto IV" has already sold over 4.2 million units in the U.S. alone in just over a month.

May totals included 871,300 Xbox 360 games and 442,900 PS3 games. Wii dominated the rest of the chart with its "Mario Kart Wii" selling 787,400 units sold in May. "Wii Fit" sold out at retail and has topped 687,700 units in its first month in the U.S.

Music games continue to rock. "Guitar Hero III" has sold 2.5 million copies this year, compared with 1.3 million "Rock Band" bundles.

The top 10 selling games in May:

  • GTA IV – Xbox 360 – Take-Two – 871.3K
  • Mario Kart Wii (w/ wheel) – Wii – Nintendo – 787.4K
  • Wii Fit (w/ Balance Board) – Wii – Nintendo – 687.7K
  • GTA IV – PS3 – Take-Two – 442.9K
  • Wii Play (w/ remote) – Wii – Nintendo – 294.6K
  • Super Smash Bros. Brawl – Wii – Nintendo – 171.1K
  • Iron Man – PS2 – Sega – 130.6K
  • Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock – Wii – Activision – 116.8K
  • Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness – DS – Nintendo – 107K
  • Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time – DS – Nintendo – 102K