In just under three years the Nintendo Switch has brought the Nintendo brand back to the center stage of the game industry. Within the 34 months since the Switch’s March 2017 release, Nintendo has managed to sail past the Microsoft Xbox One on the wave of its own momentum.
As we reported back at the beginning of the month, the Switch continues to carve out its own niche market, finding its way in the homes of gamers everywhere–even those that already have other gaming consoles. At the time of that article, we reported the Switch had already topped 41 million units sold (according to an NPD Group market analysis). Now, raw data from the Big N themselves shows that number to be significantly higher.
Not long ago, in December of 2019, the Switch passed the global lifetime sales of their very own 16-bit juggernaut: the Super Nintendo (SNES). The SNES, one of Nintendo’s most successful and universally celebrated platforms since they entered into domain of video games a few decades ago, sold 49.1 million units during its lifespan.
The Switch, however, recently surged past that milestone, sitting today at 52.48 million units sold. It’s worth noting that Nintendo Switch also managed to easily eclipse the total hardware sales of the Nintendo 64 as far back as Aprile 2019, which itself sits at 32.93 million units solds.
Microsoft famously no longer releases sales statistics for its Xbox One console, claiming that it now uses “engagement as [its] key metric for success” (via Variety). (While we understand the mindset, we’re not sure the loser of a race should be redefining the definition of victory.)
However, Niko Partners analyst Danial Ahmad shared some estimated sales statistics this month over at ResetEra, showing the current lifetime hardware sales of the Xbox One to be a mere 41 million units–meaning the Switch had likely already surpassed the Xbox One even before the official numbers dropped.
This isn’t any mere success story though. Nintendo being able to claim a lead in hardware sales over the likes of the Xbox One may not seem like a big deal, but it should be noted that Microsoft had almost three-and-a-half years of headstart over Nintendo with the Xbox One’s October 2013 release.
This is made all the more impressive by the fact Nintendo is coming off of an ever-looming stigma thanks to the generally poor market performance of the Nintendo Wii U, the Switch’s predecessor.
While long-time fans and avid gamers largely recognize the Wii U had an absolutely stacked list of great games, its failure to connect with a larger audience can’t be understated. Luckily, the Switch has rectified that problem in spades.
In Microsoft’s defense, the Xbox One is in its twilight years, and the announcement of its successor has been made public knowledge for some time now. Typically, the looming end-of-life for a platform can-and-will lead to declining hardware sales, despite the intention of an ongoing software lineup.
Microsoft has said that its newest games will–at least for the time being–be playable on both the Xbox One and its successor, the Xbox Series X, so it is possible that Xbox One sales may not slow quite as significantly. Regardless, the Xbox One has little chance to play catch-up at this stage in its life.
This isn’t just a victory flag to be hoisted at the expense of Microsoft, however. The Playstation brand also plays a part in all of this. With Nintendo selling through stock of Nintendo Switch and Switch Lite models at a record-breaking pace, things get interesting.
Of all the home consoles, the PlayStation brand accounts for four of the top-five top selling consoles (by unit) of all time. Thee of the PlayStation-brand consoles further rapidly outsold their same-gen competition. The PlayStation brand has long been a dominant figure in the market, holding many records not only for total console sales, but also the speed at which they sold.
The Nintendo Switch has broken two of those records. First, the Switch became the fastest selling console this generation, managing to sell through their shipments faster than even Sony’s PS4. Secondly, Nintendo trounced Sony on their own home turf in Japan–at least momentarily–with the Switch outselling the PS4 in 2018.
Many folks have written the Nintendo Wii off as a fluke, citing its marketing toward to a non-gaming crowd, but the Switch has been, from the start, geared heavily towards gamers. It is also designed to bridged the gap between consoles and handhelds, as the Nintendo has veritably dominated the handheld market since its inception; starting with the Game Boy in the late 1980s.
It is, at this point, impossible to casually dismiss Nintendo’s success, with the Switch cementing their place as a industry powerhouse and bonafide competitor in the console market. All three systems obviously have their own strengths and unique offerings, mind you. They are all, in their own right, worthwhile.
We are honestly very glad to see Nintendo shake off the sea of naysayers who that mocked the brand as “the next Sega”, many who theorized Nintendo would-and-should inevitably exit the hardware market. (Seriously, when you’re finished here, take a look at that article for a bunch of “hahas” and chuckles as its sheer audacity. Talk about being dead wrong.)
To be fair, this doom-and-gloom outlook by Nintendo critics has followed them ever since the Nintendo 64 days, but one look at their current, undeniable success (and the positive reactions from fans and developers alike) reminds us that Nintendo’s critics have often been very, very wrong.