The number of U.S. households with videogame consoles has jumped 18.5% since 2004, according to research from Nielsen Wireless and Interactive Services. In the fourth quarter of 2006, there were 45.7 million homes with videogame consoles, a penetration of 41.1%, compared to 39.1% from the same period of 2005 and 35.2% in 2004.

Nielsen researchers say the increase in particularly significant when considering that the total number of TV households grew 1.6% in the same period. "Consoles are successfully competing for consumers' time and attention; not simply as gaming platforms, but as multimedia hubs," said Nielsen Wireless and Interactive Services VP Jeff Herrmann in a statement.

Meanwhile, Microsoft announced it has hit its Xbox Live subscriber goal earlier than projected. The company had set a June 2007 deadline to acquire 6 million Xbox Live members, but reached that milestone this month. More than 70% of current subscribers are actively downloading content from the Xbox Live Marketplace, the company says.