– U.S. spending on video-game hardware surged to its highest in three years in December, as consumers snapped up new consoles from Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp.

Hardware sales increased 28 percent to $1.37 billion from a year earlier, NPD Group Inc. said Thursday. The tally, the highest since spending hit $1.84 billion in December 2010, drove total retail sales for the industry to their fifth straight monthly gain.

The video-game industry is monitoring demand for Sony's PlayStation 4, Microsoft's Xbox One and Nintendo Co.'s year-old Wii U to see whether new consoles will spur a broader retail comeback, or if play has shifted permanently to smartphones and tablets. The next test will be whether software sales also start to rise.

"The newest consoles from Microsoft and Sony are off to a tremendous start," said Liam Callahan, an NPD analyst, in the statement. "Xbox One led console sales in December, while PS4's two-month total makes it the bestselling console during the two-month launch window."

Sales of console hardware rose more than 50 percent, NPD said. Software fell to $1.28 billion, while the retail total, including accessories, advanced 2 percent to $3.28 billion.

Customers purchased 908,000 Xbox Ones in December, beating out the PS4, according to Microsoft, which cited NPD data.

Sony, which released the PlayStation 4 on Nov. 15, reported this month that it sold 4.2 million units worldwide as of Dec. 28.