Nintendo Switch: How Did Its Launch Go?

How has the Nintendo Switch fared in the US, UK, and Japan so far? Sales data from its first three days in the wild have emerged...

Understandably, the games industry has taken a keen interest in the progress of Nintendo’s brand new system, the Switch. The console represents a new era for the Japanese firm, not only because the Switch fuses what were previously two separate revenue streams for Nintendo – the handheld and home console sectors – but also because it’s replacing the ailing Wii U.

The good news for Nintendo is that, so far, the Switch has fared well both in Japan and overseas. Over the past 24 hours, sales data from both Japan and two other key markets – the US and UK – have begun to seep out, and it appears that the Switch has sold well over its first three days of release. 

According to Games, who’ve consulted a number of UK retailers, the Switch sold approximately 80,000 units over its first weekend. To put that into context, that’s double the number of Wii U systems sold over the same time period in late 2012, which sounds like a proper result for Nintendo. Bear in mind, however, that the figure is still some way below the number of 3DS handhelds sold at launch (over 112,000), and it pales in comparison to the PlayStation 4’s huge debut weekend sales of some 250,000 units.

In Japan, Nintendo’s heartland, the clamor for the Switch was much higher. Kotaku cites figures published by Famitsu: the Switch reportedly sold just over 330,000 units in its first three days. Again, that’s more than the Wii U, but not by as significant a margin as in the UK – the system racked up 308,000 sales in late 2012.

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Meanwhile, Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime has claimed that the Switch has sold extremely well in “the Americas,” with its two-day sales besting those of any other system in Nintendo’s long history – even the pheonomenally successful Wii. This was according to a tweet by New York Times reporter Nick Wingfield (as flagged up to us by Games Unfortunately, there are no figures to back that claim up at present, but taken at face value, it sounds like more good news for Nintendo.

It’s also worth pointing out that Nintendo’s taken the unusual step of releasing the Switch in the quiet month of March – bucking the more common approach of a pre-Christmas launch. In many respects, the strategy makes sense: the company now has a few months to let the Switch find its feet among its early-adopters and fans, before it embarks on a second sales drive in the autumn – hopefully with some games bundled in with the console this time.

The Switch’s launch hasn’t been without its teething problems. There have been complaints that the wireless Joy-Con controllers don’t always synch up to the main unit successfully – a problem which, some have claimed, may be a design flaw in the hardware – and Nintendo have rather controversially refused to replace Switch screens with dead pixels.

On the other hand, the Switch has also earned praise for the potential in its flexible, go-anywhere design – including in our review – and in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the Switch has one of the best-reviewed launch titles of all time. Breath of the Wild was beaten to the top spot by Horizon: Zero Dawn in the UK sales charts, while the game sold around 190,000 copies in Japan. In America, Nintendo also claims that the Zelda sequel is the “best selling standalone launch title” in its history – again, according to a tweet from Nick Wingfield.

The short version of the Switch’s three-day performance, then, could boil down to, “So far, so good.” The sales haven’t exploded like the PlayStation 4 or even the Wii, but then, the timing of its launch suggests that Nintendo didn’t expect it to. After a decent start, the real work for the Switch is still to come over the coming weeks and months. We’re still waiting for the roll-out of other big-hitters in the Switch’s line-up, such as Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8

Above all, we wouldn’t be surprised if Nintendo has some kind of bundle planned for the autumn. One of our main beefs with the Switch isn’t with its hardware, but with the lack of a pack-in game like Wii Sports or Nintendoland in previous generations – exactly why the party mini-game collection 1-2-Switch wasn’t included in the $300 deal is something of a mystery, since it’s a great showcase for the Switch’s hardware. Platform sequel Super Mario Odyssey is currently scheduled for release this autumn. We’re guessing that Nintendo may be planning to release some kind of Mario-themed console bundle to coincide with its launch – the kind of combo that would likely generate plenty of interest in the run-up to Christmas.

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For now, that’s speculation on our part, though. What’s clear is that the Switch has generated far more attention than the Wii U did five years ago. Now we just have to see how Nintendo capitalizes on it.