"Madden NFL 2005" the best-selling video game

"Madden NFL 2005," the latest version of Electronic Arts Inc.'s pro football video game franchise, sold more than 1.3 million copies in its first week, giving a strong kickoff to one of EA's top sellers, according to the company.

The strong sales were expected as pre-orders for the game were running well ahead of 2003, when "Madden NFL 2004" was the best-selling video game of the year and a solid financial performer for EA, reports CNN.

EA said it was the biggest launch in the franchise's history but did not say how much bigger this year's first week was compared with last year's on a units-sold basis.

Analysts estimated the sales figures had increased in the neighborhood of 35% compared with last year.

Earlier this week, retailer GameStop said the game was already one of its best-selling ever.

EA said it has also registered more than 315,000 new user accounts for online play of both Madden and college sports game NCAA Football 2005 on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, wrote USA Today.

While "Madden" has long held a dominant position in sports video games, it was expected to have a stiffer challenge than usual this year from Sega Corp.'s 7964.T "ESPN NFL 2K5," co-published with Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.

In the month of July, "ESPN NFL 2K5" sold just under 800,000 units, well ahead of what the game has done in the past, according to financial analysts, citing data from the NPD Group.

For the first time, Sega and Take-Two priced the game at $19.99, far below $49.99 for "Madden." Combined with strong reviews that placed it at or near the top of the current crop of sports games, as well as an earlier release, the Sega game was seen as more formidable competition than usual.

Electronic Arts shares were off just over 1 percent at $48.99 in morning trade on Nasdaq. After sharp gains in 2003, the stock is up slightly for the year, with declines of late on concerns the company could face an especially competitive holiday selling season, informs Reuters.

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