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Video Game Sales Drop 25 Percent In March 2011 In U.S.

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LOS ANGELES -- U.S. retail sales of video game hardware, software and accessories fell 25 percent in March from a year earlier to $1.1 billion. It marked the fourth month of decline as Sony Corp.'s new PS Vita handheld failed to spark a turnaround.

Market tracker NPD Group said Thursday that sales of console and portable software – the video games themselves – fell 26 percent to $585 million.

That's roughly in line with depressed estimates. Cowen & Co. analyst Doug Creutz forecast a 22 percent drop, while Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia expected a decline of 25 to 30 percent.

Electronic Arts Inc.'s "Mass Effect 3" was the top seller in the month.

The only PS Vita game to break into the top 10 was "MLB 12: The Show," which ranked third.

Despite going on sale for the first time in North America in February, Sony's next generation portable game-player did not unseat the most popular console for the last 15 months, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360.

Microsoft said that Xbox 360 sales accounted for 371,000 units, or 42 percent of current-generation console sales.

Industrywide sales of hardware fell 35 percent to $324 million. Accessories sales fell 8 percent to $223 million.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said in a research note last week that he was "cautiously optimistic" that overall game sales would return to growth this year. He expects sales to be helped by the PS Vita and the introduction of Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s WiiU console, which is expected to go on sale by the end of the year.

Sterne Agee's Bhatia expects software sales to be lackluster until May, when a few hotly anticipated titles hit the market, including "Max Payne 3," "Diablo III," and "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Future Soldier."

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