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The video-game console business can be extremely fickle (just ask Nintendo) but the Xbox 360 continues to rack up victories in the U.S. market.

Microsoft’s console was No. 1 in unit sales in the U.S. again in October — the 16th time in the last 17 months — according to the latest data from the NPD Group market research firm. Microsoft says the Xbox 360 sold 393,000 units for the month in the U.S., up 21 percent from the same month a year ago, and claiming a market share of 44 percent against the rival PlayStation 3 and Wii.

The momentum is key as the console makers enter the critical holiday shopping season, starting in just a couple weeks. Coming up next week is a key milestone for Microsoft: the release of Halo: Anniversary for Xbox 360, a remastered version of the original Halo game for Xbox.

Of course, the U.S. market is just a slice of the overall picture. On a worldwide basis, Sony’s PlayStation 3 saw a noticeable increase in sales in the September quarter, registering 3.7 million units sold thanks in part to a price decrease.

That compared with 2.3 million units for Microsoft’s console over the same time period.

Cumulatively, as of the end of September, Nintendo’s Wii still leads the current console generation in worldwide unit sales, with nearly 90 million Wii units sold, although much of that lead came from the early success of the Wii, and sales have since dwindled.

Microsoft reported a cumulative total of 57.6 million Xbox 360 units sold as of Sept. 30, compared with 55.5 million PS3 units sold overall as of the same date.

In the U.S. in October, overall industry sales of video game hardware, content and accessories in physical retail stores were $1.08 billion in October, up just slightly from the same month last year, according to the NPD stats. NPD Group analyst Anita Frazier said in a message that overall industry sales “should come in flat to down by as much as 2% once full year sales are in.”

Also notable from the U.S. stats: Xbox 360 held six of the top 10 console games for October in the country: Battlefield 3, Batman: Arkham City, NBA 2K12, Rage, Forza Motorsport 4 and Gears of War 3, the last two being Xbox 360 exclusives.

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