Since its release in 2017, the Nintendo Switch has become a household console for gamers and non-gamers.
Few consoles penetrate into the mainstream deep enough for parents to refer to a console with the correct name, instead of their children’s “Gameboy” or “Wii”. Even fewer come together as a complete package that connects the ideologies and technical ideas of the previous consoles that the Nintendo Switch has.
This graphic visualizes the success story of the Nintendo Switch along with more than 20 years of sales of Nintendo consoles.
The story of the sale of Nintendo consoles
Nintendo has a long and historic gaming history ̵
Game Boy and SNES (1990) were the first iteration of this strategy, and they reached more than 160 million sold units combined while establishing legendary gaming franchises with venerable sequels such as Super Mario World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Game Boys variants such as Game Boy Pocket (1996) and Game Boy Color (1998) extended the handheld life enough to follow another home console, with the Nintendo 64 coming out in 1996 and selling 32.93 million own devices.
These successes proved that the gaming audience would support two separate Nintendo consoles on the market, and Nintendo kept the strategy going for the next generations.
Lifetime Nintendo Console Sales
|Console||Release year||Units sold
(as of September 30, 2020)
|Game Boy||1989||118.69 M|
|Nintendo 64||1996||32.93 M|
|Game Boy Advance||2001||81.51 M|
|Nintendo GameCube||2001||21.74 M|
|Nintendo DS||2004||154.02 M|
|Nintendo Wii||2006||101.63 M|
|Nintendo 3DS||2011||75.94 M|
|Wii U||2012||13.56 M|
|Nintendo Switch||2017||68.3 M|
The next generation consisting of Game Boy Advance (2001) and Nintendo GameCube (2001) saw slightly lower sales figures, but competed against Microsoft’s game debut with the original Xbox (2001) and Sony’s incredibly popular Playstation 2 (2000).
While GameCube sold 21.7 million total number of devices and the original Xbox sold ~ 24 million total number of devices, Playstation 2 dominated this generation and is still the best-selling video game console of all time 155 million units sold.
The sales success of the Wii and Nintendo DS
As Sony and Microsoft pushed for HD rendering and higher graphics fidelity in next-generation consoles, Nintendo focused on how games were played instead of raw power.
This led to the Nintendo DS (2004), which added another touch screen for developers to build games around, and the Nintendo Wii (2006), which was groundbreaking for motion controls and accessibility with the simpler Wii remote control.
Both the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii were running successes, dominating their generation by more than 255 million combined consoles sold.
At the same time, Sony had tried to replicate Nintendo’s strategy with its own handheld consoles, PSP (2004) and PS Vita (2011), and while selling 80 million devices and ~ 10-15 million devices eventually left Sony’s handheld console market.
Sales decline for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U
Nintendo was clearly the king of the handheld console market. While mobile phones were feared to be a portable console killer, the Nintendo 3DS sold well when it was released in 2011 (75.94 million devices) and was Nintendo’s saving grace for the generation.
What did not hold up well was Nintendo’s home console follow-up of the Wii, Wii U. The console only reached 13.56 million lifetime sales, and was quickly overshadowed by Playstation 4 (113.5 million sold devices) and Xbox One (~ 51 million units sold) releases in 2013.
Wii U’s weak sales led to one of Nintendo’s worst periods ever in recent times, with two unprofitable years for the company in 2012 and 2014. While developers previously flocked to make games for Wii’s motion controls, Wii U’s tablet controls did not attract the same kind of innovative software development .
Nintendo’s net income since 2000
|Year||Net income (USD)|
|2000||$ 490 M|
|2001||$ 734 M|
|2002||$ 896 M|
|2003||$ 627 M|
|2004||$ 324 M|
|2005||$ 742 M|
|2006||$ 827 M|
|2007||$ 1,561 M|
|2008||$ 2,838 M|
|2009||$ 3,003 M|
|2010||$ 2,819 M|
|2011||$ 1010 M|
|2012||– $ 498 M|
|2013||$ 67 M|
|2014||– $ 194 million|
|2015||$ 348 M|
|2016||$ 141 M|
|2017||$ 910 million|
|2018||$ 1,273 m|
|2019||$ 1778 M|
|2020||$ 2500 M|
How Nintendo Switch Unified Nintendo Strategies
With the Wii U’s poor performance leaving Nintendo in a tough spot, the next console release was crucial to the company’s success.
The Nintendo Switch arrived just in time for 2017 when Wii U sales dried up, and the new hybrid home and portable console became an instant success. By the end of the 2018 financial year, Switch had already sold out the Wii U 17 million units sold.
While the success story of the Nintendo Switch largely came from how it united home and handheld gaming, the console led to many of Nintendo’s strategies and technical decisions through generations.
Many of the Wii Remote’s capabilities are still present in the Switch’s Joy-Cons, with built-in accelerometers and motion control gyroscopes, along with the ability to rotate them sideways for a more classic controller configuration. The Nintendo DS’s touch screen permeated many Nintendo consoles and is still present in the switch, and looking back at the Wii U tablet controller, it now seems like an early prototype for the switch’s freeformability.
Combine physical and digital play
Nintendo’s attacks on physical toys, which started with Amiibo characters, are also gradually developing and melting physical and digital games thanks to Switch.
In 2018, the company released Nintendo Labs, a custom cardboard building set that integrates with Switch and its Joy-Cons for a variety of games and experiences. 2020 release of Mario Kart Live: Home circuit pushed this further, with players able to build a Mario Kart circuit in the home to run physical maps controlled by the switch.
The company continues to branch out into other realms with the opening of the Super Nintendo World theme park at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan on February 4, 2021. The theme park will also combine the digital and physical worlds, with virtual coin collecting and other mobile slot prizes playing the experience for visitors.
Expand Nintendo’s audience to more than just gamers
The success of the Nintendo Switch has led to more experiments and new ideas from the company, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it an important product in 2020. With many families at home due to locking, they were able to push the console out of Docking and the TV one for playing in handheld mode has been a game changer.
While Nintendo’s development team can prepare for its next console with a little more economical respite thanks to Switchen’s superb sales, the company has worked hard to expand its audience. The physical games for younger audiences help capture a new generation of Nintendo fans, while older generations of fans will be happy to visit Super Nintendo World and enjoy nostalgia as they introduce Nintendo to their children.
As Nintendo Switch’s excellent game library continues to expand, both new and old fans will be happy to see which consoles, games and other products come next from the legendary game company.
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