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New Nintendo Switch Sales Data Release Exposes Glaring Strategic Flaw

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:13 PM
William White
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:13 PM
  • Nintendo Switch sales figures are outpacing those of the company’s earlier consoles.
  • This data release seems to suggest the console is a smashing success.
  • However, the numbers don’t quite stand up to closer scrutiny.

The Nintendo Switch crossed another milestone, surpassing 41 million unit sales . At first blush, that’s spectacular news for the video game giant.

But is it enough?

Switch Sales Pass Another Milestone

The most recent update to Nintendo Switch sales reveals that the console has sold a total of 41.67 million units across its roughly two-and-a-half years of life.

When looking at this compared to the Wii U, the previous home console from Nintendo, those numbers look phenomenal – at first. After launching in November 2012, the Wii U was only able to move a measly 13.56 million units before its death.

Excuse me for raining on Nintendo’s parade, but the Switch isn’t anywhere close to proving itself a success. See, the Switch isn’t just a home console. It’s also portable. That means it replaced both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS line with its release, and its sales figures must be evaluated accordingly.

Nintendo Burdened the Switch with an Impossible Mission

nintendo switch, 3ds, and wii u sales
Compared to the Wii U, the Switch has been a smashing success. | Source: Nintendo 

Nintendo initially claimed that the 3DS line would not be affected by the launch of the Switch. However, that promise doesn’t really hold up  following the release of the Switch Lite.

There’s no denying that the Nintendo Switch will retire as one of the company’s best-selling home consoles. The numbers already have it beating previous console heavyweights, including the Nintendo 64 and GameCube. It’s also likely to outpace the Super Nintendo and original NES before its life-cycle ends. However, that does not necessarily mean it will have been a success.

Let’s look at the previous console generation to discern the true size of the Switch’s task. The Wii U and 3DS have sold a combined total of 89.01 million units. That definitely seems like a number the Switch can reach (though it still has a long way to go), but let’s not forget one key factor about that number: the Wii U was a massive financial failure for Nintendo .

With that in mind, it only makes sense that the Switch would beat out those combined sales, but what if we take it back another generation?

This Strategy Won’t Return Nintendo to Its Glory Days

nintendo wii unit sales vs switch
Nintendo’s hybrid console model will never move enough units to match the glory days of the Wii and DS. | Source: speedimaging/Shutterstock.com

Now we’re looking at the Wii and the Nintendo DS. These are the best-selling home and portable consoles Nintendo has ever released. Together, they sold 255.65 million units. That’s a much loftier goal that seems virtually impossible for the Nintendo Switch to match.

nintendo wii and ds sales
Has Nintendo given up on returning to its glory days? | Source: Nintendo 

That’s not the Switch’s fault. On its own, it will likely rank among Nintendo’s best-selling consoles. However, it’s hard to imagine this hybrid device will be able to sell enough units to make up for the lack of dedicated home and portable offerings.

It’s true that Nintendo can bolster Switch sales with redesigns of the console and a possible Switch Pro, but that likely won’t be enough to empower the company to reclaim the heights of its former glory.