After a slow start to 2006, the video game industry witnessed a huge spike in sales, with hardware and software sales swelling to $3.7 billion in December.

Market research firm NPD reported Thursday that the overall US video game industry's sales grew 28 percent during the month, with hardware sales increasing 59 percent to $1.6 billion, and software sales rising 5 percent to $1.1 billion

Industry growth was led by strong sales of video game systems. Within the hardware category, console sales rose 131 percent to $1.1 billion due to the higher-price of Sony's new entrant, the Playstation 3, and Nintendo's Wii game system.

Despite the hype surrounding the next-generation systems, however, the hardware sales leaders were older consoles.

The portable Nintendo DS was the number-one platform, selling 1.6 million units, followed by Sony's Playstation 2 at 1.4 million. Microsoft's second generation Xbox 360 console sold 1.1 million. Nintendo sold 604,200 Wiis and Sony sold 490,700 PS3s.

Software sales also saw an increase, dominated by titles for the Xbox 360 and the PS2.

Microsoft's Gears of Wars for the Xbox 360 was the top seller for a second month in a row, selling 815,700 copies in December. Activision's Guitar Hero 2 for the PS2 sold 805,200 copies, and EA's venerable title, Madden, sold 737,100 copies.

Overall, video game software sales rose 6 percent in 2006 to $6.5 billion. Industry sales grew 19 percent to $12.5 billion from $10.5 billion in 2005, led by a 43 percent increase in hardware sales to $4.6 billion, with software sales up 6 percent to $6.5 billion.