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Nintendo Switch drives March games sales to $1.36B in US - NPD

The hardware category nearly doubled year-over-year thanks to Nintendo's record-breaking Switch launch

With the Nintendo Switch and Zelda: Breath of the Wild both breaking records for Nintendo recently, it comes as little surprise that The NPD Group's March report reveals a significant uptick for the industry. Hardware boomed, jumping 91% year-over-year to $485 million, while software increased 5% to $612 million. The PC games category actually fell 25% to $29 million, but overall the industry jumped up 24% to $1.36 billion.

NPD analyst Sam Naji commented, "March 2017 will go down in history books as the month Nintendo broke records.The Nintendo Switch had the biggest hardware launch for a Nintendo platform and the second biggest launch for any video game platform since 1995, the time NPD began tracking this category.

"In this debut month (month 1), the Nintendo Switch sold 31K more units than previous best-selling Nintendo month-1 platform, the Game Boy Advanced, which released back in June 2001. The two Nintendo Switch SKUs, the 32GB Gray Joy-Con, followed by the 32GB Neon Red/Blue Joy-Con, were the best-selling systems for the month."

Zelda nearly managed to claim the top spot on NPD's software chart, although it should be noted that digital sales were not included in the ranking. Instead, Ubisoft's Ghost Recon: Wildlands secured the top position with the "best launch of any Ghost Recon title; and, after Tom Clancy's The Division, it was the second best launch of any Tom Clancy game."

While Zelda has been around since 1987, NPD's tracked sales only begin in 1995. The total for the franchise from 1995 to the present comes in at $1.4 billion, and interestingly Naji pointed out, "Zelda is the top-selling property of all time within the Adventure super genre, selling 54 percent more revenue than the next best-selling franchise, Resident Evil."

Breath of the Wild sold over 900,000 physical units, bumping the Zelda franchise total even higher, and NPD noted that "Switch's packaged software sold 1.3m units, a record high for a Nintendo platform launch." Even 1-2 Switch made the top 20 best-selling games chart (see below) with an attach rate of 19 percent.

While Nintendo and Ghost Recon each had big impacts, it's important to recognize the contributions of Mass Effect and Horizon Zero Dawn, which helped the industry reverse 9 consecutive months of year-on-year declines since May 2016. Indeed, Mass Effect: Andromeda, although maligned by some crtics, was the third best-selling title during the month and actually enjoyed the second best launch in the popular franchise (behind Mass Effect 3). As for Horizon Zero Dawn, NPD noted that Guerrilla Games' critically praised new IP "was the developer's best launch ever, selling twice as much as its next best title, Killzone Shadow Fall."

It's worth noting, for those who value digital sales tracking, that NPD added another very important digital panel participant to its list since launching digital tracking last July. Microsoft has been confirmed as a member of the panel and the company's digital numbers are included in the Xbox ranked titles, but for this month only, not yet factored into top line reporting. NPD's other digital panel participants include Activision Blizzard, EA, Take-Two, Warner Bros., Ubisoft, Bandai Namco, Deep Silver, Square Enix and Capcom.

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*** denotes lack of digital sales in ranking

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