Looking at the biggest months for a hardware revision for a Nintendo handheld, some of them have been big sales boosters, and I suspect the Switch Lite will be a big one as well. But how big? Let's look at the ones that did drive sales significantly, by their first month:
|System||Model||Release Date||Units Sold||Increase From Previous Month||Year-over-year Increase|
|Game Boy Advance||GBA SP||March 2003||838,000||188%||166%|
|DS||DS Lite||June 2006||593,000||303.4%||429.5%|
|3DS||New 3DS||Feb. 2015||395,000||433.8%||154.8%|
Other models didn't do nearly what these four did to boost sales, providing only small short-term boosts.
Well, those numbers are all over the place. It's also worth pointing out that the GBA SP and DS Lite came out on five-week months, while the New 3DS came out in February, which I would think matters considering how much January has shrunk in importance thanks to being sandwiched between the holidays (which are more important than ever) and tax season. Looking at the year-over-year increases, except for the DS Lite the produced between 150-170% growth. Last September the Switch sold 205k units, so I do think that at minimum if we use year-over-year as our basis for predicting we ought to expect no less than 500k for this September, and perhaps at least 550k. It could go even higher than that since, unlike those other revisions, this is also a quasi-price cut being the first $200 SKU. While I doubt we'll see the record the DS set in the DSi's launch month, I think we could see somewhere in the 700-800k range.
Of course, the first month is always the best, with the effects diminishing over time, but what effects can we expect on the baseline?
The DS Lite was by far the most effective, producing a significant increase over the previous baseline, with the new baseline steadily improving in 2007 & 2008 and staying level in 2009. Considering the generally anomalous nature of the DS's sales patterns, we probably shouldn't expect the NS Lite to replicate that.
The GBA SP gave GBA sales a solid boost for about a year, with the March 2003 - Feb. 2004 period being up 19.8% over the previous 12-month period.
The DSi came at the DS's (unusually belated) peak, and didn't generate any appreciable YoY growth past the first two months (see the bump in 2009 in the chart above). Similarly, the New 3DS came long after the 3DS peaked, and produced an increase for a period of only two months.
As we can see, while the short-term boosts are unmistakable, the longer-term effects are very inconsistent. As mentioned, I doubt the Switch Lite will be anything close to as major as the DS Lite, but it is coming early enough in the system's life to where it could have a long-term impact unlike the DSi or New 3DS. Probably the most reasonable assumption would be no less than 20% over a 12-month period. If we wanted to be generous we could go even higher and assume something more like the PS3 Slim and 360 S, which produced some of the best improvements to baseline sales that we've ever seen with home consoles, maybe something more like 50% over the Sept. 2017 - Aug. 2018 period. So, maybe anywhere from 7M to 9M over the Sept. 2019 - Aug. 2020 period. Since the hardware revision is coming this year, I've revised my estimate for 2019 as a whole to about 8M. For 2020, assuming the last third of the year is down, say, 20% (because of no Pokemon and no new revision), I think we could see between 7M to 7.5M for the year. Assuming that the Sept. 2017 - Aug. 2018 period is the Switch's peak period, then if it doesn't decline too quickly and doesn't get replaced until 2023, it actually could stand a chance of matching the Wii, possibly even beating it.
So, I guess I have to revise my projections up a bit after this news now that we have a confirmed hardware revision with an appealing price tag and form factor, maybe 40M, ±2M, though it could theoretically go higher (though likely not by enough to threaten the DS's position as the #1 system in the history of the U.S. market).