Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of WRAL Tech Wire and business editor of WRAL.com.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Critics have for the most part raved about “Gears of War 3,” but they don’t buy video games. Consumers do. And their verdicts are coming in.

Gears 3 is the blockbuster of the year.

They love the latest in the franchise from Cary-based Epic Games.

Sales have already topped 3 million for Gears, which hit store shelves last week, according to data acquired by the videogame industry website VGChartz. Buoyoed by well over 1 million pre-orders, Gears store sales hit 2.15 million, Seb Parker reported.

Parker also projects Gears 3 will surpass its two predecessors, which combined have sold some 13 million copies.

“The franchise typically sees around 6-6.5 million units lifetime, but Gears 3 is set to buck the trend and should surpass 8 million units,” Parker wrote.

Of those sales, 2.15 million were made in the U.S. while 850,000 more were sold worldwide.

Gears’ performance is also the biggest launch this year and is the sixth biggest Xbox360 launch ever, Parker reported.

Reviews reflect Gears’ sales performance. At GameSpot, players rate Gears 9.3 out of 10. Reviewers, meanwhile, assigned it an average rating of 9.1. GameSpot itself rates Gears 3 a 9.5.

Read the review breakdown here.

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