The Nintendo Switch is clearly a popular machine, but today, Nintendo gave us an idea of just how popular it is. Citing numbers from the NPD Group, Nintendo announced today that the Switch is the fastest selling console of the generation (in the US at least). Here in the States, the Switch has sold 8.7 million units since first being introduced in March 2017.
That’s enough to put the Switch ahead of other current-gen consoles at the same point in their respective life cycles. That’s particularly impressive when you consider that the PlayStation 4 has been consistently popular ever since it launched.
Nintendo also cited NPD data through November to proclaim itself the top-selling software publisher in the US for 2018 so far. It’s important to point out that the NPD numbers Nintendo is using don’t include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is unquestionably the biggest Switch release of the year. Nintendo says it’s anticipating a big boost once we toss Ultimate into the mix, noting that it’s already sold 3 million copies in its first 11 days of availability.
This is quite the turnaround from just a couple of years ago, when the Wii U was Nintendo’s home console of the moment. The Wii U, as all of us know by now, was not a successful console, only managing to sell 13.7 million units over its four-year lifespan. The Switch outpaced lifetime Wii U sales in just nine months – that’s how bad it was.
Nintendo seems to be redeemed with the Switch, though, and there’s a few reasons why the console has soared while the Wii U sank. The first is the Switch’s hybrid design, which works really well and helps the console stand out from the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The Switch is the full realization of the concepts Nintendo was working toward with the Wii U, and the console’s unique design is one that’s actually useful instead of simply being a gimmick.
Nintendo’s Switch marketing and branding has also been on point too, which can’t exactly be said of the Wii U. Sticking with the “Wii” name across two consoles was a mistake on Nintendo’s part, and the advertising the company produced wasn’t always clear about whether this was an entirely new console or if it was an upgrade to the existing Wii. Most of us who follow the gaming industry knew that the Wii U was an different, new machine, but to mainstream consumers, that distinction wasn’t as clear as it should have been.
Then we come to what is arguably the most important reason: the games. Though you could make an argument that the Switch could still use some more third-party support, it’s become a great platform for indie games. Nintendo has also had an aggressive first-party release schedule from day one, starting with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey launching in the same calendar year.
It’s hard to beat having new Mario and Zelda releases so close to one another, but it seems that both games were successful in pulling people to the platform. Nintendo revealed today that Breath of the Wild has sold more than 4 million copies and Super Mario Odyssey has sold around 4.7 million. Those numbers are specific to the US, which means that the Switch has an attach rate of around 50% for both titles.
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has them both beat, however. In the US, the game has now sold more than 5 million copies, so it seems that Nintendo’s strategy of filling the gaps in its release schedule with Wii U ports is working out well (or at least it is with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe).
The big question now is whether or not Nintendo can keep this momentum up. Nintendo has pretty lofty sales goals for its current fiscal year, though it sounds like the holiday season will be a kind one to it and the Switch. Nintendo clearly has a good foundation for the Switch in place; now it just needs to keep its first party line-up going strong while bringing even more third-party developers over to the platform.