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100 million and counting: Nintendo affirms that Switch is still mid-cycle

Video game characters Mario and Luigi make bank.

Aurich Lawson | Nintendo

Nintendo’s latest financial report to investors, issued as an overview of its fiscal year’s third quarter, came with a momentous announcement for the veteran video game and console producer: Switch has joined the 100 million-worldwide-sales club.

What’s more, Switch’s current tally of 103.5 million means the device has leapfrogged over both the PlayStation 1 and Nintendo Wii in terms of sales. The count makes the Switch Nintendo’s highest-selling home console of all time. While Sony’s PS4 and PS2 console families continue to hold higher sales counts, neither got to the 100 million mark as quickly as Switch, which only needed 57 months to do so (March 2017 to December 2021).

Nintendo Switch's 57 months to reach 100 million units sold, as compared to other members of the 100 million club.
Enlarge / Nintendo Switch’s 57 months to reach 100 million units sold, as compared to other members of the 100 million club.

Kyle Orland

The only console family to get to the 100 million-global-sales mark faster is Nintendo’s own portable DS platform, which needed only 51 months. The DS, which came out in 2004, launched at a lower $149 price point and went lower from there, while Switch has never sold for less than $199.

Way to dampen our hopes about “Switch Pro”

In a statement to investors, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa affirmed that the Switch console, as it nears its fifth anniversary, is “in the middle of its lifecycle.” Furukawa said nearly the exact same thing a few months earlier when Switch crossed the 90 million-sales mark.

Thus far, the company has officially remained mum about any future consoles. Instead, Nintendo has focused on how the Switch has avoided the sales downturn that typically besets game consoles after roughly four years. What’s more, while Nintendo hardware and software sales dropped relative to comparable periods in 2020, sales still exceeded the same spans of time in 2019. Nintendo accomplished this despite supply chain issues during 2021.

Additionally, wholly digital game-sales figures were flat for Nintendo in 2021 compared to 2020—with a key exception. When looking specifically at the holiday-adjacent October-December period of sales, Nintendo Switch’s digital game sales revenue grew a whopping 31 percent to 110 billion yen (roughly $950 million). That suggests a wider global embrace of digital game purchases during a traditional gift-giving season. That also means that Nintendo doesn’t need to put as many boxed copies of games under Christmas trees to drive revenue, and it doesn’t need to make as many payouts to brick-and-mortar retailers.

All-time biggest-selling console game in Japan

March 2020’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons reached a staggering global sales count of 37.6 million copies in less than two years. Only Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has sold more on Switch, but it needed over 4.5 years to reach its sales figure of 43.4 million copies. (We’ve previously talked about why AC:NH‘s sales figures are so remarkable.)

Of particular interest to Nintendo: AC:NH has now exceeded 10 million copies sold in its home nation of Japan, which Nintendo says makes it the highest-selling console game in Japan of all time. This lines up with publicly facing data as compiled by the Game Data Library, which shows Nintendo historically leading in home and portable console game sales in Japan. According to Game Data Library, AC:NH‘s current sales tally is very close to surpassing the Japanese portable-console champ, Pokemon Red/Green for the original Game Boy, which also exceeded 10 million.

Speaking of Pokemon: The latest series remake, November’s Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl, needed less than two months to join Switch’s illustrious 10 million-seller club. It reached a global sales tally of nearly 14 million copies by the end of December. BD/SP will likely surpass Pokemon Let’s Go‘s 14.3 million sales tally before long. (We’ll have to wait for Nintendo’s next investor report to see how much this month’s impressive Pokemon Legends: Arceus contributes to the Pokemon-on-Switch pile.)

As far as other major Nintendo launches in 2021: the company’s newest hardware model, Switch OLED, reached approximately 4 million in sales between its October launch and the end of 2021. Meanwhile, Metroid Dread became that series’ fastest-selling game by reaching 2.7 million in sales in under three months. (Should the sequel continue selling through 2022, it will almost certainly eclipse the original Metroid Prime to become the best-selling Metroid game of all time.)

All of this data combines to give Nintendo a good excuse to delay any “next-gen” gaming hardware without significantly biting into its general bottom line. And all of the above sales figures don’t even go into the company’s growing IP-licensing universe, which currently includes an upcoming Super Mario CGI-animation film and the operation of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios theme parks.

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