Nintendo Switch sales: attachment issues

For a console that’s had the biggest hardware launch in Nintendo’s history across Europe, the US and Australia, the platform holder has been surprisingly coy about releasing concrete sales data for its recently released Switch. 

For both the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo released first week sales for its new consoles, with the Wii selling an impressive 600,000 in the US and the Wii U a comparatively disappointing 400,000 after eight days. For the Switch, however, Nintendo’s chosen to wait until April 27th when it releases its full fiscal year earnings, where we’ll finally learn just how many consoles have been sold worldwide in its first month. 

Thankfully, analysts have been more than happy to fill in the gaps in the mean time. NPD Group recently estimated the Switch sold 906,000 consoles in the US in March, while SuperData now pegs its global sales figure at 2.4m. That’s an increase of 60 per cent since SuperData’s last estimate in the middle of March, causing the firm to update its original forecast of 5m units by the end of the year to 7.2m. 

“Our estimates for total number of units sold in the UK in March is 181,000,” SuperData’s Joost van Dreunen tells MCV. “Nintendo is performing above expectations, which suggests that, at least for now, it is well on its way to restoring investor confidence. The current slate of upcoming titles is also looking strong, and we expect Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 to do well.”


Indeed, with Mario Kart 8 already the best-selling Wii U game worldwide, the Deluxe version on Switch should give the console another boost. That said, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is still selling strongly. 

Despite launching alongside the console, NPD says Nintendo sold more copies of Zelda on Switch in the US than the actual console last month, reaching a lofty 1.3m units, 925,000 of which were on the Switch. Allegedly, players wanted two copies – one to play and another to keep as a collector’s item – but not in the UK. 

While we can’t report exact numbers, we’ve seen GfK’s cumulative sales figure for Zelda on Switch in the UK, and it brings SuperData’s 181,000 UK hardware figure into question, as it would mean there’s an awful lot of Switch owners out there without a copy of Zelda, and potentially some without any physical games at all.

Admittedly, Switch’s digital sales figures are still a mystery, so there’s still a chance that some of the
shortfall may be made up by eShop purchases. 

However, when consumers are buying hardware Day One, it’s actually easier to add physical games to those orders than it is going through the rigmarole of setting up an account and downloading the title when they get home. 

Combine that with the Switch’s relatively meagre storage space, not to mention the fact that Zelda’s never managed to reach any higher than No.8 on Nintendo’s Switch eShop charts, and it’s clear that the vast majority of Zelda copies are being bought in a box. 

So either Zelda’s attach rate isn’t as incredible as anecdotal evidence might suggest (we know no one who doesn’t own the game, and we’re sure you don’t either) or something isn’t quite right with the figures. 

Still, Zelda’s cumulative sales certainly aren’t to be sniffed at. It’s already Nintendo’s biggest-selling launch title in Europe, outdoing even Wii Sports in its first weekend. 

Of course, all eyes will be on Nintendo come April 27th for those first official figures, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Switch can turn around Nintendo’s recent fortunes and give it a Wii-sized win.

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