Nintendo’s latest financial results have confirmed a milestone for Nintendo Switch sales that we knew was coming, but that is still a major achievement. The hybrid handheld has racked up over 122 million sales in its lifetime, placing it ahead of PlayStation 4 (117 million) and Nintendo’s own venerable Game Boy (118 million) as the third-best-selling game console of all time.
Only PlayStation 2 (155 million) and Nintendo DS (154 million) have sold more. With Nintendo projecting around 18 million sales for its current fiscal year — a number the company says has been constrained by semiconductor shortages — and at least one or two more years before Nintendo introduces a successor, the all-time crown is not yet out of Switch’s grasp. It’s an incredible turnaround from Nintendo’s previous hardware generation, when Wii U flopped to a meager 13 million units sold (versus Wii’s 101 million), and 3DS, while performing respectably, only managed half the sales of its predecessor.
Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that Switch hardware sales are slowing, and there’s a question mark over how many more major first-party games remain to propel them. After The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom in May, Nintendo’s slate has Pikmin 4 due later in the year, an undated Metroid Prime 4, and that’s about it. Nintendo is likely weighing up whether its unannounced projects, and maybe even Prime 4, should be held back for its next console.
For the time being, though, Switch software sales remain more than healthy. Pokémon Scarlet and Violet shifted an incredible 20 million copies in their first six weeks on sale, making this already the fourth-best-selling generation of Pokémon games ever. Splatoon 3, another recent release, has cruised to 10 million sales, while the Switch’s top seller Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has cracked the 50 million barrier with an astonishing 52 million copies sold, putting it in a very exclusive club with the likes of Tetris, Wii Sports, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto 5.
Here’s what the Switch’s all-time top 10 looks like now:
- Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (52 million)
- Animal Crossing: New Horizons (41.59 million)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (30.44 million)
- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (29 million)
- Pokémon Sword and Shield (25.68 million)
- Super Mario Odyssey (25.12 million)
- Pokémon Sword and Shield (20.61 million)
- Super Mario Party (18.79 million)
- Ring Fit Adventure (15.22 million)
- Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Eevee! (15.07 million)
Overall, Switch has reached 994 million games sold, more than any other Nintendo console (thanks, presumably, to its thriving digital marketplace).
When Switch launched six years ago, few predicted the platform — based on hardware that was then already quite dated — could attain this level of success. But the simplicity of Nintendo’s pitch, combining home and handheld gaming in a single device, plus the traditional strength of its in-house software saw it through. The question for Nintendo now is whether to simply upgrade the Switch concept for a new hardware generation, or try something new. The former seems like a no-brainer, but Nintendo is a restless innovator, and many of its biggest successes — including the Game Boy, the Wii, and the Switch itself — came out of left field. Will it surprise us again?