A strong turnout by shoppers for Black Friday boosted U.S. video game sales 8 percent last month, marking the strongest November on record, but sales for the whole year are likely to be flat at best, according to retail research firm NPD Group.

As the holiday shopping season got under way, consumers bought a total of $2.99 billion worth of consoles from Microsoft Corp , Nintendo Co <7974.OS> and Sony Corp <6758.T> and games from the likes of Electronic Arts Inc and Activision Blizzard Inc .

That is an 8 percent increase on the same month a year ago, and marks the best November on record, beating the same month in 2008 by about $30 million in sales, NPD Group said.

However, the video game market -- which has been slow to recover from the recession -- is still down 5 percent for the year to November 30, compared with the year-ago period.

Despite a strong November, NPD Group said sales for the whole year were likely to range from $18.8 billion to $19.6 billion, the top of which would be essentially flat with last year.

Microsoft's Xbox was the best-selling console, helped by a surge of interest in its new Kinect controller-free motion sensor, beating out competition from Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft said it sold 1.37 million Xbox units last month, and was on track to hit its target of 5 million Kinect sales by the end of the year.

Activision Blizzard's Call of Duty: Black Ops was the best-selling game in its launch month, at 8.4 million units, making it the seventh best-selling game of all time.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Richard Chang)