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Microsoft’s Xbox 360 remained atop the U.S. video-game console market to start the year, leading Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii in unit sales in the country in January.

It’s the thirteenth straight month the Xbox 360 has held that position, according to NPD Group data cited by the company this afternoon.

However, unit sales of 270,000 for the Xbox 360 for January were down from the 381,000 Xbox 360 units sold in January 2011.

That reflected an overall slump in the U.S. video-game industry to start the year, as total sales of hardware, software and accessories in physical retail stores fell 34 percent to $750 million, according to NPD.

NPD blamed the steep decline in the industry on a dearth of new game releases and a tough comparable when stacked up against January 2011, when the market was lifted by the launch of the Kinect sensor for Xbox 360.

For the full year of 2011, Microsoft confirmed that the Xbox 360 finished the year ahead of the PS3 and Nintendo Wii for the first time in head-to-head worldwide unit sales, as noted by GeekWire last week. The company released this chart showing how the Xbox 360 sales trend has defied the typical decline experienced by consoles toward the end of the product life cycle.

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