Nintendo Switch Outsells The Wii in First 48 Hours, But What Does That Mean?

Nintendo Switch Outsells The Wii in First 48 Hours, But What Does That Mean?

Nintendo offers benchmarks, but no real numbers.

We're starting to get a rough picture of the early sales for the Nintendo Switch worldwide. This is Nintendo's platform moving forward, so it's good to figure out whether that platform is off to a great start.

Does it print money?

Over in the United Kingdom, the Switch hit 80,000 units sold. That's double the Wii U, but below the debut sales of the 3DS (113,000) and far below the PlayStation 4 (250,000) and Xbox One (150,000). According to Famitsu (via Bloomberg reporter Yuji Nakamura), the Switch sold 313,700 units in the first week in Japan. That puts the system ahead of the Wii U (308,600), but behind the PlayStation 4 (322,100) and Wii (371,900).

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Now thanks to an unpublished interview with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime by New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield, we have a very rough idea of Switch sales in our region. Sales for the first 48 hours of the system "exceeded" the first 48 hour sales for any other system in Nintendo history. The next biggest system was the Wii. In addition, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was Nintendo's best-selling standalone launch during the same period, beating Super Mario 64 for Nintendo 64.

The Switch sounds like it's off to a solid start! That's great. The problem is if you're trying to read any further context into all of this. Let's dig into why.

First, the Japanese sales are good, in line with many other successful launches in that territory. The issue here is whether the region was supply constrained. It's entirely probable that Nintendo probably could've sold more systems if they had shifted the worldwide allocation around a bit. Perhaps that initial shipment aptly covered Japanese demand, or there's a ton more to go around. We don't really know.

Second, the specific range of the Nintendo of America quote is a bit odd. The two day focus means that Nintendo either doesn't know numbers beyond those two days in the United States, or sales dropped off. In the latter case, sales fell off due to demand being met or the supply being drained completely.

The dragon Nintendo will forever chase.

The closest numbers we have to work with are the Wii and Wii U sales. The Wii sold 476,000 units during its launch month of November 2006 and the system was horribly supply constrained at the time. The Wii U was around 400,000 for its opening weekend sales in North America.

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This time around, Nintendo is doing better with supply and production; the company said that it was shipping 2 million Switch systems by the end of March. Assuming a larger chunk of that allocation is for North America, that's a lot of Switch to go around. Those two day sales could be amazing, or they could be average. 500,000 would be damned good, I'd think.

If they had crossed the 1 million unit milestone established by the PlayStation 4 in its first 24 hours in North America, we would've had a press release by now. So it's likely below that crazy high number.

Even once we have the numbers, it won't paint a full picture of the Nintendo Switch's overall fortunes. The 3DS had pre-order numbers that were double the Wii and sold 440,000 units in its first week. (375,000 in 48 hours in Japan.) The problem was sales dropped off a cliff following the successful launch of the system. From April to June of 2011, the portable only sold 710,000 units worldwide, which was pretty bad. Nintendo was able to pivot quickly with an $80 price drop and the holiday release of Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7.

There's no clear indication as to whether the same will happen with the Switch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the next big title for the system, coming in late April. Then we're waiting for Splatoon 2 this summer. I'd surmise that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe could keep the system afloat until Summer, when Splatoon 2 will probably lead to a huge boost in Japanese sales. (Seriously, they love Splatoon.) I just don't know where sales are going to be for other regions.

Will Nintendo have to pivot with a price drop again? No clue. They are in a good spot for it, with Super Mario Odyssey coming in during the Holidays.

For right now though, I have cautious optimism for the Nintendo Switch. I want Nintendo to do well this time, because I enjoy the system. I just don't know exactly where it stands in our region yet, or where it'll stand in the future.

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Mike Williams

Reviews Editor

M.H. Williams is new to the journalism game, but he's been a gamer since the NES first graced American shores. Third-person action-adventure games are his personal poison: Uncharted, Infamous, and Assassin's Creed just to name a few. If you see him around a convention, he's not hard to spot: Black guy, glasses, and a tie.

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