is a smashing success, at least financially.

The game, designed by Cary-based and published by Microsoft’s videogame business unit, has already sold more than 3 million copies.

It was released on Nov. 7, and the latest figures don’t include weekend sales, which could have been heavy, given the holiday season.

“Microsoft confirmed to me [Monday] that ‘Gears of War’ sell-through surpassed 3 million units as of last week,” Epic Vice President Mark Rein told Edge, the videogame news Web site.

Rein confirmed the sales number to Local Tech Wire and noted that they are a surprise.

"We’re extremely pleased with the results,” he said. “The game is selling beyond our expectations."

The original "Gears," which won a wide variety of awards and helped Epic grab a top “best studio” honor, has sold some 5 million copies since its release two years ago. However, it needed 10 weeks to reach the 3 million mark. The sequel did so in four.

Whether the new "Gears" will be the artistic success of the original remains to be seen.

"Gears 2" is one of five finalists for “Game of the Year” at the annual , which will be broadcast on Spike TV on Dec. 14 at 9 p.m. (The show also can be watched online, using four different camera angles.)

"Gears" won that award in 2006 as well as numerous other honors.

"Gears 2" is also a finalist for the best Xbox 360 game award, best graphics and best shooter.

“We’re really honored for Gears 2 to be nominated in five categories for Spike TV’s 2008 Video Game Awards,” said Gears spokesperson Dana Cowley.

Lead designernCliff Bleszinski and senior producer Rod Fergusson will represent Epic at the show.

Other honors could come for Epic tonight at 8 p.m. EST when G4 TV hosts X-Play’s Best of 2008 Awards. Gears is a finalist in the Game of the Year, Best Multiplayer, Best Shooter and Best Original Soundtrack categories.