Microsoft on Thursday claimed victory for its Xbox 360 games console in the key US holiday season, citing industry sales figures that gave it a 51 per cent market share.

Sony’s PlayStation3 was beaten into third spot by Nintendo’s Wii in next-generation console sales recorded by the NPD group.

Microsoft said NPD put sales of the Xbox 360 at 1,132,000 in December against 604,000 for the Wii – a 27 per cent market share – and 491,000 for the PS3, or 22 per cent.

Microsoft was aided considerably by the Wii and PS3 being in short supply since their launch in November. The Xbox 360 also had a year’s head start over its rivals and Microsoft announced this week the console had sold 10.4m units worldwide since its launch in November 2005.

The figures up to December 31 were half a million ahead of its projection, Robbie Bach, president of the Entertainment and Devices division, said in a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“That’s a significant milestone,” David Hufford, director of Xbox product management, told the Financial Times on Thursday.

“There’s an old rule that the first to 10m [new-generation console sales] has a distinct advantage.” Mr Hufford said Microsoft’s big software title of the season – Gears of War – had “an insanely great holiday”. He revealed it will have sold 3m copies worldwide by next week.

Microsoft announced at CES that the 360 would be adapted so telecoms operators could offer television services through it over the internet by the end of this year. Members of its Xbox Live online service would also be able to play games with users on PCs that were loaded with its new Vista operating system.

Sony announced at the show that it had reached its target of shipping 1m consoles to the US market by the end of 2006.

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