After the disastrous run of the Wii U, both critically and commercially, Nintendo had a big succession job on their hands. The Wii U wasn’t a bad console, I certainly liked it but at times it was hard to get past the giant controller and lack of third party support no matter how good the core first party offerings were. Looking at the Switch it feels like the Wii U was almost like a proof-of-concept for their HD console on the go idea. However it sold like just that, a prototype.
Alarm bells rang when in January Nintendo unveiled the new console on one of their hamfisted “Direct” videos. Games like 1-2 Switch and Arms filled with motion control nonsense sent many, including myself, running for the hills. I am sure I was not alone in bashing it. Waggle controls aside they did show off Zelda: BOTW and Mario Odyssey and that was enough for most to go along for the ride.
Preorders were hard to come by in many parts of the world. Traditionally I would put this down to Nintendo’s history of marketing driven “shortages” but that was not the case here. In its launch month Nintendo shifted 500,000 units in Japan and 900,000 in the US. Nintendo then announced that it was its fastest selling console to date. There was also that amazing stat from the US that Nintendo had sold more copies of the Switch version of Zelda: BOTW than they had sold actual Switch consoles. It’s been attributed to people buying the regular version to play and the collector’s edition to just have. Incredible. Nerds gonna Nerd I guess? Huzzah!
Nintendo had a great release strategy to follow the strong commercial launch. Each month would see one major first party release. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2, Pokken Tournament DX and even the aforementioned Arms all had a clear release window with excellent marketing. This happened every month until the end of 2017 with Mario Odyssey being the biggest sales driver of them all.
Nintendo are associated with quality rather than quantity lately. Nothing proves that more than the attach rates of its biggest first party titles this year. Mario Odyssey sits at a 60% attach rate with Zelda and Mario Kart at 55% and 50% respectively. That “Seal of Quality” is far from a gimmick. Mario Odyssey and Zelda: BOTW were neck and neck for game of the year for a reason.
It was announced last week that Nintendo had sold 900,000 Switch consoles in Japan this December alone. This brought their total to 3.3m in Japan. This is significant as it bested the record held for most consoles sold in its first year previously held by the mighty PS2. Even more amazing was the fact that the Switch matched Wii U’s LIFETIME sales in Japan in just 10 months. (Source Famitsu via Polygon)
Any time that sales results can be compared to the all time top selling console (PS2) it must be noted. Their beginnings are almost identical. Switch and PS2 both began their launch years in early March but PS2 flew out of the blocks with 900,000 units sold in its first month in Japan. The Switch started off with 500,000 but has beaten Sony’s beloved console through sheer momentum. I put that down to the “one a month” strategy mentioned above. It helps that these games all reviewed very well.
The 2018 first party release slate is yet to be revealed but it’s safe to assume that the already revealed core Pokemon game will be the October 2018 release. This will be used to entice those on 3DS to pop over to Switch. Nintendo have to build the install base before unleashing a core Pokemon title on the console, much like Rockstar do with GTA. Pokemon Switch will be huge for them next Christmas.
I just want a Super Mario Maker port and the arrival of the Virtual Console. Please do that.
The next sales milestone is to beat Wii U’s 13m global sales figure. The Switch has been placed at 10 million units sold globally as of mid December. I would imagine that the Wii U figure is already close to being beaten considering the most recent update does not include the final few weeks of Christmas and the weeks after.
Switch sales are outpacing even the Wii. I don’t think it’s impossible for Nintendo’s new sales phenomenon to come close to the Wii when it’s all said and done. If sales are even remotely comparable at the end of it’s life then it must be seen as the single greatest bounce back by a company in the history of the industry.