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Switch physical US software sales tracking ahead of Nintendo platforms since '95

"Third-party support seems to be gaining momentum regularly," says NPD analyst Mat Piscatella

According to The NPD Group, Nintendo's Switch is setting a record pace for physical software sales in the US and is currently on track to outpace all previous Nintendo platforms (console and portable) in its first calendar year, since the firm began tracking the data in 1995.

What that means is that NPD is looking at capturing one holiday for each platform, within one calendar year. So some platforms like the Wii had a November launch and therefore only 2 months in the first calendar year, versus the Switch or 3DS which both had March launches and about 9 months to generate sales.

While it's not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, the holiday sales season is often when a bulk of purchases (especially physical retail) are made, and there's no denying that Switch is off to a very, very good start from both the hardware and software perspective.

Of course, when it comes to software, the Switch is driven primarily by first-party efforts, and that all started right at launch with the record-breaking sales that Zelda: Breath of the Wild enjoyed.

"The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the #2 best-selling game of the year through August, trailing only Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands. And this is despite only physical sales being reflected in the rankings for Zelda," NPD analyst Mat Piscatella explained to "Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Splatoon 2 have certainly helped drive performance as well. As for the third-party games, we are still yet to report on Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, which Ubisoft has announced is the best-selling third-party game on Switch already, with titles like FIFA, NBA2K18, DOOM, Wolf 2, and Skyrim yet to come.

"Add these to a Super Mario Odyssey title, which I've predicted will sell $100m+ in packaged sales alone this Q4, and the result is a significant total year of physical software sales for Switch."

Nintendo platforms have always been driven by first-party titles, and while that's not about to change radically for the Switch, Piscatella is highly encouraged by Mario + Rabbids and the other third-party efforts he outlined above. "Now that third-party support seems to be gaining momentum regularly, we should start seeing more balanced contribution," he noted.

Although it will be a while before we can tally the Switch's first-year performance, when you factor in all the digital purchases on the console as well, we could potentially see a new software sales record for the first year of a Nintendo platform. Piscatella noted that's too speculative for now, but "just about anything is possible."

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James Brightman avatar
James Brightman: James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.
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