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I was preoccupied by other stuff yesterday and didn't get to post the rest of my charts. And I thought I had more than I did, but it turns out that I had already covered most of my charts. There's a few yearlies that I haven't updated yet, so I'll post those. I didn't update anything monthly because we didn't get any hard numbers for the PS4 & XBO. The yearly stuff does include both systems for 2020 and as mentioned in my first post with the charts is likely going to be off a bit due to using the best-guess estimates at Era. PS4 & XBO sales thus could be as much as 10% short (~300-400k units for both combined) if the actual numbers were closer to what VGC has.

Overall, the U.S. hardware market has still managed to remain relatively stable. While it's nowhere near what it used to be, it has still managed to average over 15 million units per year across all platforms since 2013. Also, it's worth pointing out that most of the losses incurred over the past decade have been because of the decline and then disappearance of "pure" handhelds from the market. While the GBA over-performed big time and the DS is the best-selling system ever (likely their third ever to sell over 40M units in the U.S.), the 3DS wasn't quite the hit those were. As a hybrid, the Switch fills the demand for both home and handheld Nintendo systems and is handily outpacing combined aligned 3DS + Wii U sales and is on track to be one their best-selling systems ever, but it's nowhere near what combined Wii & DS sales were at their peaks (over 20M combined in both 2008 & 2009, plus another 18M+ in 2010). On Sony's end, the PSP did decently, but the Vita was a flop and Sony has completely exited the handheld market. While the loss of traditional handhelds has impacted the total market, game consoles in general are doing fine.

If we ignore handhelds and focus on home consoles (including the Switch), they have maintained healthy but highly variable sales. While some of that variability is due to the normal grow-peak-decline ebb and flow of each generation, most of the variability in the market has been on Nintendo's end as they went back and forth from struggling systems (the GameCube and Wii U) to bona fide smash hits (the Wii and Switch). The market for more conventional consoles has remained much more stable. The PS2 & Xbox sold over 61M units combined, the PS3 & 360 sold 70M, and the PS4 & XBO are on track to sell at least 65M, essentially splitting the difference. While that is a drop from Gen 7, it is worth pointing out that the 360 had an 8-year gap between release and replacement, the longest ever for a home console.

During the generation proper, the PS4 & XBO managed to put up some remarkably stable sales, remaining over 9M units per year combined from 2014 to 2018. During that 5-year period, they managed to sell 49M units combined, 11.1% more than what the 360 & PS3 did combined through their respective first five full years. While the PS4 & XBO dropped off somewhat more in 2019 than what the PS3 & 360 did in 2012 (~28.4% vs. ~25.8%), their LTD sales sans launch holiday reached 55.9M units combined, about 2% more than what the PS3 & 360 did combined in their first six years aligned. Taking into account this slightly shorter generation, falling 5 million units (about 8%) short of their predecessors isn't really a big deal, and shouldn't be seen as any kind of indication of a contraction in the market for conventional consoles.

Also, even though the past two years have been the worst for conventional consoles, it worth keeping in mind that A) supply issues were a concern in 2020, and B) the 360 & PS3 were more back-loaded than any other consoles to date, and C) the 360 & PS3 were coming off of a higher peak in the last two years before their replacement. Once supply issues for the PS5 & XBS are fully resolved, I expect them to perform comparably to the PS4 & XBO.

@RolStoppable. I do agree that Animal Crossing would still be a strong system-seller even had COVID not been a thing. However, I don't think it could have pushed the Switch to anything significantly over 7M without the pandemic & stimulus to aid it. Comparing YoY and, perhaps most pertinently, month-over-month sales, it seems likely that the Switch would have sold something closer to 700k in March without the pandemic, assuming that AC itself didn't also benefit from the pandemic. That would still make AC one of the biggest system-sellers ever, maybe the biggest ever in the U.S. in absolute numerical terms (I'd have to go and recalculate everything for comparing it to other games), and that March would still have been one of the best non-holiday months ever in the U.S. April would have seen a big drop-off, though, but AC still could still have had some sort of residual effect, possibly propelling it to as much as 300k that month. Past that, we shouldn't have seen any measurable effect on sales from AC, given that system-sellers never have any impact past their second month (and most never past their first). So, we might have seen a net YoY gain of around 400k for that 2-month period. Had the Switch been on average flat over the remaining 10 months of the year, it could have gotten close to 7M. But had it experienced even a modest drop for those other 10 month, say 10%, it would have been down slightly for the whole year. There's a reason why most predictions had the Switch's 2020 sales being at best flat or slightly up from 2019. Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected it to sell 9 million.

As for those "time limits" you refer to, Nintendo has a well-known habit of running on short generations, killing off even successful systems prematurely. Their home consoles have never lasted longer than 6 years before being replaced (unless you count the Famicom's run in Japan). The Wii could have lasted longer and had better legs had they not bailed on it in 2010-11 to put all their efforts into the Wii U. They released the DS when the GBA was still doing very well, which had the effect of completely sucking the wind out of the GBA's sails. They released the 3DS when the DS was doing even better than what the GBA was doing, which caused the DS's sales to decline rapidly from what was a very healthy baseline.

While I would be pleasantly surprised if they didn't repeat themselves again with the Switch, I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they did it again, because Nintendo is probably always going to do what Nintendoes (sorry, bad pun). If we don't start hearing rumblings of the Switch's successor (which I really think will be a "Switch 2"; same form factor, but with a generation leap in power) by early 2023, then and only then will I be inclined to think the Switch will be longer-lived than the norm for a Nintendo system. But realistically, I think the most likely target date for the Switch's successor will be November 2023, giving it about the same run as the DS had before it was replaced. Maybe March 2024 at the latest.

Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 04 February 2021


In accordance to the VGC forum rules, §8.5, I hereby exercise my right to demand to be left alone regarding the subject of the effects of the pandemic on video game sales (i.e., "COVID bump").