US videogame sales in January slipped to 1.17 billion dollars, a 13 percent drop from the same month last year, according to figures released Thursday by market-tracker NPD Group.

The inauspicious start to 2010 came after the prior year finished with videogame sales in the three leading markets - Britain, Japan and the United States - down eight percent to 379.3 million units.

Still, analysts are optimistic the industry will gain momentum as the economy improves and hotly-anticipated new titles hit the market.

Top-rated "Mass Effect 2" made its US debut in late January. A sequel to a blockbuster "BioShock" videogame and a "Dante's Inferno" title based on the classic literary work were released this week.

The latest entry in the popular "God of War" franchise is due out in March.

US videogame software sales in January tallied 597.9 million dollars, down 12 percent from the 682.6 million dollars brought in the same month last year, according to NPD.

"New Super Mario Brothers" for Nintendo Wii consoles was the top selling game in January, followed by science fiction shooter game "Mass Effect 2" published by Electronic Arts.

Videogame hardware sales plunged 21 percent to 353.7 million dollars as compared to 446.8 million dollars in January of last year.

Wii continued to be the best-selling console, with 465,800 bought. Microsoft sold 332,800 of its Xbox 360 consoles and Sony sold 276,900 of its latest-generation PlayStation 3 consoles.

Nintendo sold 422,200 DS hand-held gaming devices while sales of Sony PSP devices tallied 100,100, according to NPD.

"Holiday shoppers depleted our supplies," said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing.