Nintendo’s Switch, Super Smash Bros. Absolutely Crushed December

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The Switch has been a hot commodity ever since its initial debut, but Nintendo’s Christmas 2018 was beyond good. According to the NPD Group, the Switch’s sales put the company back in the good old days of 2009, when the Wii was absolutely tearing up the charts.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, NPD analyst Mat Piscatella broke down how the quarter finished up. Overall video game hardware sales were down 8 percent in December 2018 versus December 2017, but full-year sales increased by the same amount. Total sales of software, hardware, and accessories grew by 2 percent for the month of December and 13 percent over the entire year. According to Piscatella, the SwitchSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce “generated the highest December month hardware dollar sales for a single platform since the Nintendo Wii in December 2009, and achieved the highest December unit sales for a single platform since December 2010.” He then followed with this tweet:

The good news for Nintendo doesn’t stop there. Super Smash Bros UltimateSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce, which didn’t even launch until December, was the highest-selling Switch game for the entire year. Packaged sales — which is to say, physical retailers, not digital — exceeded that of Super Smash Bros Brawl, the previous record holder, by 70 percent. According to Kotaku, that puts first-month physical sales for Ultimate at over 4.5 million units. SSBU also set a sales record for a platform exclusive, outperforming the 2010 launch of Halo: Reach. And the fun doesn’t stop there — Mario Kart finished out 2018 as the second best-selling racing game of all time, “trailing only Mario Kart Wii for lifetime sales.”

We figure the Smash development team probably looks about like this right now.

The end result of all this is that Nintendo generated more software revenue than any other console vendor for the entire year. Sony and Microsoft didn’t have bad years — according to NPD, all three platforms saw their sales totals increase for the full year relative to 2017.

These gains may have been US-specific; VGChartz, which tracks the worldwide market, claims that PS4 and Xbox One sales fell by 10.5 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. It would be extremely interesting to know if the Switch’s launch had a material impact on sales of either the Xbox One X or PS4 Pro — have gamers who were already plugged into Sony or Microsoft’s ecosystems reacted to these refreshes by replacing hardware they already owned, or did they opt for a Nintendo system with a different value proposition than the equipment they already owned? Unfortunately, this kind of granularity is difficult to come by. Either way, Nintendo has demonstrated that the Switch’s popularity was no passing thing.

If the Switch and Xbox One continue to sell at the rates VGChartz estimates they did in 2018, the Switch will surpass lifetime sales of the Xbox One in 2020, despite having launched more than three years after Microsoft’s current console.

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