'Halo 3' smashes sales records

Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday said its "Halo 3" video game rang up a record-smashing $170 million in retail sales within its first 24 hours in U.S. stores.

The figure does not include international sales in 37 countries, which could add tens of millions to the tally.

In comparison, the top grossing movie release, "Spider-Man 3," racked up $151 million at the box office in its opening weekend .

"Spectacular," said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities.

Analysts say strong sales of "Halo 3" could be enough to push Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division into the black for the quarter ending Sept. 30. The division has lost billions of dollars since launching its Xbox video-game console business in 2000. The Redmond, Wash., company has promised to reverse those losses and turn a profit from its games business this fiscal year.

"Halo 3" is regarded as a critical component in Microsoft's strategy to win the race against Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 console. Microsoft, which has spent millions of dollars in a marketing blitz to promote the game, is betting "Halo 3" will spur consumers to buy its Xbox 360 console and play the game online through the company's Xbox Live service.

"Within the first 20 hours alone, we've seen more than a million Xbox Live members come online to play 'Halo 3,'" said Shane Kim, corporate vice president of Microsoft's game studios.

The game's previous installment, "Halo 2," grossed $125 million its first day out in 2004.

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