Switch sales are strong because the platform gives the people what they want

Nintendo’s latest financial report for the nine months ending December 31, 2020 has just been released, and one of the most noteworthy things is that the Switch’s lifetime sales have beaten those of its handheld predecessor, the 3DS, in less than four years. On top of that, the platform has just enjoyed its most successful sales period to date.

In total, 79.87 million Switch devices have been shipped worldwide, 24.1 million of which were in the last nine months. This means that in terms of all-time sales, the Switch is Nintendo’s fifth best-selling platform behind the DS (154 million), Game Boy (118.7 million), Wii (101.6 million) and Game Boy Advance (81.5 million). By comparison, the sadly underappreciated Wii U sold just 13.56 million units in its lifetime.

Nintendo Switch sales figures
Source: Nintendo

Also of note in the report is the fact that the Switch has sold 532.34 million units of software in its four years on the market. This once again eclipses the 3DS (385.85 million units) but also beats the Game Boy (501.11 million units) and dominates the Game Boy Advance (377.42 million units). It even pulls ahead of the classic Famicom and NES (500.01 million units) and comfortably outshines the SNES, N64 and GameCube (379.06 million, 224.97 million and 208.57 million units respectively).

We can attribute the Switch’s strong figures to a few things. The first of these is the fact that it has a digital marketplace that allows players to download low-cost digital titles as well as providing the option for packaged physical releases. The eShop features regular sales events, and in any given week hundreds of games can be found on (sometimes seemingly perpetual) deep discount — have you ever seen Thief Simulator going for full price, for example? This makes impulse purchases highly likely.

Limited Run Switch releases
Limited Run Games often makes the Switch the “lead” system when promoting its multiplatform releases.

The second thing worth considering is that the Switch is the console that is arguably enjoying the strongest support from limited-run press houses such as Limited Run Games, Strictly Limited Games, Super Rare Games and many others like them. Some of these outfits are even Switch-specific.

This makes it a particularly attractive prospect for video game collectors — and indeed, there’s a thriving “#SwitchCorps” subculture on Twitter devoted to collecting for Switch, with high-profile figures such as eastasiasoft’s Joshua Michael French and Premium Edition Games’ co-founder JP’s Switchmania making a point of championing the joy of physical whenever they can. And since limited-run physical releases often show up well after digital versions — usually to ensure that limited-run copy has all the DLC and patches on the cart — many players “double dip” so they can play the game early, then pick up a boxed copy later.

Probably the most important factor, though, is that the Nintendo Switch is a platform that isn’t afraid to give the people what they want.

Waifu Uncovered Switch game

It’s the platform you go to if you want Nintendo’s iconic exclusives. It’s the platform you go to if you want small-scale indie titles. And it’s the platform you go to if you want gleefully experimental games, deep and lengthy visual novels, games that will help you better yourself and some of the best retro titles out there. Hell, it’s even the platform you go to if you want local multiplayer couch co-op games — even if getting friends over for those feels like a far-off memory from another dimension at this point.

Significantly, it’s also the platform you go to if you want niche-interest Japanese (or Japanese-inspired) games featuring provocative or ecchi content. With Sony still refusing to comment on their much-criticised and seemingly amorphous content policies surrounding games with anime art styles, the Switch is the place to go if you want to play localised Japanese games that are as true as possible to their original form.

There are occasional missteps, there are occasional cancellations (we all still weep for Omega Labyrinth Z) and sometimes pesky local laws make edits to content completely unavoidable… but the people making and localising games for the Switch are seemingly unafraid to push the boundaries where possible — and Nintendo appear perfectly happy to accommodate them. And that, in turn, leads to sales from people who want that kind of thing. It’s not even necessarily about wanting lewd things; it’s about wanting the freedom to be trusted with your own choices about entertainment.

Moero Crystal H Switch game
Moero Crystal H

To put it another way, the Nintendo Switch is king of inclusivity so far as the gaming audience is concerned. You can pick up a copy of Waifu Uncovered and see hand-drawn vaginas. You can play steamy otome games, LGBT-friendly titles and muscle-headed testosterone-fests. You can play games that believe they are high art, games that are simply great games, and games that play with the very definition of interactive entertainment. And all the diverse people across all of gaming who appreciate all these different things can all enjoy them together in one place: on the Switch — at home, or on the go.

Arguably the only thing the Switch is lacking to a certain degree is the big-budget, photorealistic triple-A blockbuster — but judging by those sales figures, Switch owners don’t seem to care all that much; they’re far too busy enjoying all the many and varied other experiences they can have on their platform of choice.

Speaking of varied experiences on the Switch, have you preordered our lovely limited editions for Gal*Gun Returns, Root Film and Kowloon High-School Chronicle yet…?

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Pete Davison
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