CrossSection | Even Faced With Next-Gen, The Switch Is Still A Force To Be Reckoned With

With next-gen consoles advancing steadily across the immediate horizon, the question on everyone’s lips back at the end of 2019 was “What does Nintendo need to do to keep the Switch competitive?” The answer, it turns out, is “not all that much really”.

Nintendo’s latest quarterly financial results were released early this morning, revealing the latest total sales figures for Nintendo Switch hardware and software, and boy, was it a doozy.

Nintendo has announced that in the most recent financial quarter (July-September), the Nintendo Switch shifted a humongous 6.8 million units worldwide. This means that there has been a total of 68.3 million Switch units sold as of September 30th, 2020. 

On the software side, Animal Crossing has sold a further 3.6 million copies in the quarter. Animal Crossing is now the second best selling Switch game ever, with 26m total units sold in just over 6 months. 

As Animal Crossing continues to receive support from Nintendo, the game is surely going to end up being the best selling Switch game sooner or later. Even though the game might not be the same omnipresent force of zeitgeist that it was back in its launch month, it’s still going steady. 

As the only new piece of Nintendo published software in the quarter, Mario 3D All Stars has sold 5.21 million in just 12 days, showing a strong start for the collection which Nintendo have claimed will become unavailable for purchase in March 2021. 

Switch hardware sales results November 2020

Looking at the data a little more closely, these hardware figures are impressive to say the least. The 6.8 million units sold make this the biggest non-holiday quarter in the console’s history, and it didn’t need a major new release or packed marketing schedule to do it. 

The Switch is also well on track to have its biggest year of sales in 2020 too, despite the perceived lack of new software (caused by the lack of new software) and the looming threat of the Playstation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S. 

Of course I’m being a bit harsh to some less major Switch releases from this year, like Paper Mario: The Origami King and Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics, which have sold 2m and 1.81m respectively. But considering these more b-tier titles were up against Playstation’s heavy hitters in The Last of Us II and Ghost of Tsushima, I think I’m justified in being a little dismissive of Nintendo’s summer efforts.

It’s impressive, honestly, that Nintendo has managed to take a year where many people (including myself) have been a little negative about its software output and marketing efforts, and have completely smashed it in sales numbers.

This isn’t a massive shock, as consoles generally hit their stride 3 or 4 years into their lifecycle, as the library matures and costs come down. Interesting to note though, is that the switch is seeing that growth without having ever come down in price.

2020 releases

When you compare the Switch’s trajectory to the PS4’s, it’s even more evident how well the Switch has been doing. At this point in the PS4’s life, there were 60.4 million of them out in the wild, which is still nothing to sniff at. 

Unlike the PS4 though, the Switch is just about to enter into what looks to be a pretty lucrative holiday period, which should cement it as a juggernaut of the generation. With the current gen winding down and large restocks of the PS5/XSX looking unlikely until the new year, the goal is wide open for Nintendo to score this Christmas.

It remains to be seen whether the Switch will be able to compete alongside the next-gen consoles going forward, especially as the ageing hardware makes third party ports even less of a viable option. However, considering how well the system has done with only one major new first party release this year, I think the Switch will still be able to hold its own and remain competitive, even if it does start to slow down in 2021.