Microsoft said yesterday that sales of its Xbox video-game console have surged in the past 30 days, an indication that the system might be gaining ground on competitors such as the Sony PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's GameCube. In a letter to analysts, the company said that it sold 468,000 Xbox units in November--nearly double the number sold the previous month. The company also reported sales of 2.4 million Xbox software titles, with five titles topping the 100,000 units sold mark. Finally, Microsoft reported sales of more than 136,000 Xbox Live Starter Kits; the kit lets Xbox users play games online with people around the country.

Nevertheless, market leader Sony posted numbers that, predictably, leave Xbox in the dust. The company reported sales of more than 1 million PlayStation 2 units "in the first couple of holiday shopping weeks" alone and said that it will sell more than 400,000 units of its network adapter, which is required for online games, by the end of the year. Sony says that US retail sales of all video games have exceeded $6 billion so far this year, with another $4 billion expected by year's end. That $10 billion figure represents an almost unbelievable 25 percent increase over last year's record figure of $9.4 billion.

Incidentally, the third major player in the video game market, Nintendo, has yet to report any holiday sales figures. However, analysts expect the company to meet or beat Microsoft's figures.