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Pokémon Sun and Moon’s incredible success means the 3DS’ future is bright

They’ll soon be the handheld’s top sellers

Pokémon Sun and Moon - Alola region map
A map of the Alola region in Pokémon Sun and Moon.
Game Freak/The Pokémon Co./Nintendo
Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Pokémon Sun and Moon are selling at a mind-boggling rate, and they’re on track to be the most popular games in the entire Nintendo 3DS library. With their staggering success — and a corresponding increase in 3DS hardware sales — it seems that reports of the handheld’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Nintendo launched Pokémon Sun and Moon worldwide on Nov. 18, the Friday before Thanksgiving. By the end of the month, sales in the Americas had topped 3.7 million units, making them Nintendo’s fastest-selling games ever in that region.

The momentum only increased from that point forward: Nintendo announced today that it sold a whopping 14.69 million copies of Pokémon Sun and Moon by the end of 2016. The span between Nov. 18 and Dec. 31 is just 44 days long, which means that Nintendo was racking up sales at an average of nearly 334,000 copies each day.

“The release of the smart device application Pokémon Go led to increased sales of software in the Pokémon series released in the past and drove Nintendo 3DS family hardware sales growth, particularly outside of Japan,” said Nintendo in its third-quarter earnings release today.

Indeed, in July 2016 — when Pokémon Go debuted — the 3DS was the top-selling gaming hardware in the U.S. The buzz around the game, which is available only on Android and iOS, also drove major increases that month in sales of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire as well as Pokemon X and Y.

While Pokémon Go may have faded as a phenomenon, it still seems to be having a strong knock-on effect for other Pokémon games and the platform on which they’re available. Nintendo reported sales of 6.45 million 3DS units during its third fiscal quarter, a figure that was up 10 percent year-over-year. The quarter included the release of two limited-edition models of the 3DS, which sold out instantly; it remains hard to find 3DS systems in stores.

Pokemon Go icon on an iPhone home screen Michael McWhertor/Polygon

If Sun and Moon keep selling at the rate they’ve managed so far, they’ll soon outpace the other titles above them on the all-time 3DS list. (Nintendo counts pairs of Pokémon games together, so while Sun and Moon are technically two separate products, they appear as one “game” in the company’s list of top-selling titles.)

Currently, the best-selling 3DS game of all time is the previous Pokémon adventure, 2013’s Pokemon X and Y, with 16.06 million copies sold worldwide as of Dec. 31. (Helped by the Pokémon Go bump, sales of X and Y totaled 1.36 million units in 2016.) Next on the list is Mario Kart 7 with 14.82 million copies sold since its debut in 2011 — just above Sun and Moon. Absent some sort of unforeseen catastrophe, the games will surely continue selling well enough to bring them to the top of the 3DS library.

Pokémon games aren’t the only 3DS titles that are performing well. Nintendo said that 3DS software sales were up 20 percent year-over-year in the third quarter. Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS and Kirby: Planet Robobot, both of which were released in 2016, are also million-sellers — 2.01 million copies worldwide for Super Mario Maker and 1.32 million for Planet Robobot.

This bodes well for the future of the 3DS, which Nintendo has said will stick around as a dedicated handheld platform alongside the portable/console hybrid Switch. This year’s 3DS software lineup includes two entries in the popular Fire Emblem series, as well as a Pikmin game, the franchise’s first handheld title. Third-party games include Square Enix’s Dragon Quest series — a port of Dragon Quest 8 launched last week, and Japanese 3DS owners will get to play a new game, Dragon Quest 11, later this year.

Of course, Nintendo will likely focus this year on getting the Switch off the ground, and rightfully so. But it seems clear that the 3DS will not be a mere afterthought for the company.

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