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Nintendo Switch launch sales are good news — but not great news yet

Don’t read too much into that Wii comparison

Nintendo Switch handheld with Zelda main menu Austin Pikulski/Vox Studios

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime has revealed that the Nintendo Switch has sold faster than any other Nintendo system in the Americas, which is pretty good news if you’re a Nintendo fan.

But it’s not an indication that the company is bouncing back from the relatively tame hardware sales of the Wii U, at least not yet. The system, anecdotally, has sold out at most major retailers since launch. As of now, it also can’t be purchased online, except through third-party resellers.

It would be bad news if Nintendo hadn’t sold out its initial allocation in the United States. Still, we have no way of knowing if Nintendo has managed to simply get more units on store shelves than it did for previous console launches. There’s also no way to tell if early launch week interest is indicative of longterm success.

Nintendo has also yet to provide official sales numbers in any market; it’s impossible to know for sure how many units the company has sold and how that compares to previous hardware launches. Right now, the data is telling us more about regional allocation and manufacturing capability than giving us anything close to a prediction about overall success.

For instance, Famitsu is reporting that the Nintendo Switch sold an estimated 330,637 units in Japan in its first three days of available, which places it between the first two days of Wii sales at 371,936 consoles and Wii U’s 308,570 consoles in that country. That’s not a wide spread, considering the Wii went on to sell 101.63 million units worldwide. The Wii U has only sold 13.56 million units to date, according to Nintendo’s own numbers.

Selling well during a weekend in March is something to be proud of, but it’s not enough to stake a claim that the Switch is on pace to make up for Nintendo’s previous console. And keeping up sales momentum could be tricky — just look at the Wii U.

There’s very little to play on the console right now — Breath of the Wild notwithstanding — and Nintendo is struggling to communicate a coherent online strategy. The hardware issues are also troubling.

It’s important to maintain some perspective. The Switch isn’t riding high quite yet, although Nintendo is finding it easy to mine a positive story from the basic facts of the system’s launch. This has been a successful first weekend, to be sure. But we’ll need to see how well the system sells in the coming weeks — not to mention whether Nintendo will be able to meet future demand — before we’re comfortable saying the Switch is on track to match the Wii U’s sales, much less those of the Wii.

Watch: Nintendo Switch Hardware Review