Let's Talk About Switch Sales Numbers Once More Data Comes Out

The Nintendo Switch had one of the most successful hardware launches in Nintendo history, but that doesn't necessarily reflect on the consoles' future.

Nintendo’s new hybrid portable/home console is seeing early success. Nintendo of America President, Reggie Fils-Aime, told a New York Times reporter that the Switch had the best initial two-day sales out of any Nintendo console.

The system also sold more in its launch weekend than any other Nintendo hardware in Europe. After struggling with the Wii U and ending its lifespan after less than five years, Nintendo is striving to come back full-force as the face of video games. Although, these numbers are promising, they are not indicative of how well the system will do overall.

Looking at the Wii U’s launch numbers back in 2012 would give the impression that the system would do fairly well. The Wii U kept pace with the original Wii’s sales numbers during its first quarter, selling over 3 million units compared to the previous console’s 3.19 million. However, as time went on the numbers began to dwindle exponentially, and the Wii U only managed to push out 13 million units throughout its entire lifespan, a fraction of the Wii's numbers. However, the Wii U’s marketing was not only extremely confusing, but nearly non-existent. Nintendo took a new approach with the Switch, and the console now stands out in consumers minds much more than the Wii U ever did -- remember thinking, "is it just a controller for the Wii, or a new console?"

At launch, console sales depend largely on availability. Although the Switch outsold both the Wii and DS at launch in many regions, the Wii was nigh-impossible to find for several months. Nintendo has always been very conservative with their supply -- as is evident with the lack of NES Classic systems available for purchase -- but Nintendo does have a loyal fanbase of customers who have purchased their consoles for decades. Leading to a state where no matter what Nintendo release, they are all but guaranteed to have a strong launch. If the Wii released with the same amount of consoles ready to ship as the PS4 or Xbox One did, it could have easily matched a million consoles sold in 24 hours like those consoles did.

Looking at the data of the PS4 and Xbox One launches shows the disparity between launch sales and lifetime sales. Both systems were relatively on pace with each other in the beginning, but now the PS4 is nearly doubling the amount of Xbox One sales. On the other hand, the 3DS was seen as doomed through its first year, but after a myriad of exclusive high-quality titles managed to be extremely successful. Even in Nintendo’s home country of Japan, the Switch outsold the Wii U in its first three days but was a few thousand units short of the Wii’s launch. All three consoles sold more than 300,000 units, though.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to tell how well the Switch will ultimately do for Nintendo. The new console launched outside of the holiday window and still managed to fair as well, if not better, than previous consoles in nearly every region.

If Nintendo continues to release quality titles like Breath of the Wild throughout the years, and sees support from third party developers, it could easily follow the path of the original Wii. If not, it’s very likely we could see a repeat of the Wii U. So until we see more data, especially after the new console hype-train dies down, let’s put the topic of Switch sales on hold.

Published Mar. 10th 2017

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