I believe this depends on whether you are looking at US/Americas data or Worldwide data.
Switch shipments for first 9 months of fiscal year
|Apr. 1 to Dec 31
||YoY % increase
||YoY % increase
The YoY increase was actually greater for the first 9 months of the current fiscal year. Not only has Switch not peaked but it's growth rate is increasing too. The Americas tell a different story. One might guess Switch is slowing down in the Americas but not the rest of the world. But what I really think is that Smash Bros is simply really popular in the US and that makes 2018 proportionally higher in the Americas compared to the worldwide total. Either way, Switch sales have most definitely not peaked nor are they anywhere close.
Shipments are not sales. I try to avoid using shipment figures whenever possible.
Nintendo has published some global sell-through figures, stating it sold about 13M globally in 2017 and close to 16M in 2018 (30M was the LTD total as of the end of Jan. 2019, not Dec. 2018, and it probably sold about 1M in Jan. 2019), with about 19M in 2019 based on the 48M LTD sell-through figure. So, that's about +23 in 2018 and about +19% in 2019. So, globally it's slowing down.
I've already gone over U.S. data, so let's look at Europe next. As it turns out, it was also up less there in 2019 than in 2018. Nintendo's own sell-through data for the region looks to be close to spot-on with VGC's yearly data for the Switch. VGC had the Switch up 32% in Europe in 2018, but it was only +15% in 2019 (again, more or less what Nintendo's own data suggests).
Japan is the only major region where it had better growth in 2019 than in 2018. The Switch was up more in in 2019 than in 2018 Japan (+27.2% vs. +6.7%). But there's no guarantee that it'll replicate that this year. Early sales figures from this year are not necessarily indicative of the year as a whole being up YoY (just as I admit the reverse not necessarily being the case in the U.S. just because of January). 2020 being up again so far could just as easily be a residual effect of boosts given to sales in 2019 from the Lite, as well as a rush of people trying to buy a Switch before the impending coronavirus-induced shortages kick in. It's too early to tell. We'll have to see what the baseline looks like as the year progresses.
So yes, you're technically right that the Switch isn't slowing down everywhere.
The Switch slowing down in the U.S. and Europe doesn't bode well for it coming even remotely close to the DS. Looking at the U.S. (since we have a complete data set for both systems so far), the Switch needs to grow at least 53% YoY just to keep pace with the DS. Where is it going to get that kind of growth from? There's no new model in the cards, there's no way any one game will do the trick, and there's no guarantee a price cut will produce it (especially if it's late in the year), seeing as even the most effective price cuts haven't bee that effective. The only time we've ever seen that kind of growth for a home console was for the PS1 back in 1997, and with the DS back in 2006 & 2007. If the Switch grows only 20%, that will widen the gap in the DS's favor even more; it will need to grow another 18% just to avoid widening the gap any more. If the Switch is flat or down any this year, that makes it nigh-impossible to catch back up. The DS peaked in 2009 (its 5th year), and between 2009 and 2013 it sold 26M units. If the Switch is at only 23.5M units lifetime in the U.S. at the end of this year, it will need to sell at least 30M units from 2021 onward. No system has ever sold that many units after its fifth year. The DS's 26M is the current record-holder, and it managed that mainly by selling 19.74M units in just 2009 & 2010. Again, where is that kind of growth going to come from with the Switch? It's growth has been vastly slower than the DS's. The odds of it matching the DS, much less convincingly beating it, are already low, and without some very strong and accelerating growth over the next year or two, the odds drop from low to infinitesimal.
In Japan, it could come closer, but it's still an uphill battle. Even if it grows another 20% this year, it'll still be running a deficit of over 8 million units. This means that at minimum it'll have to sell nearly 16 million units from 2021 onward just to match the DS. We've never seen anywhere close to this from any system ever in Japan for sales after Year 4. The current record-holder is the PS2, with just short of 8M units sold between 2005 and the end of its life. Beating the 3DS is plausible, perhaps likely. But beating the DS? Unless it experiences some outright explosive growth over the next two years, it's going to be impossible.
And as I explained, we can forget about the Switch beating the DS in Europe. Ain't. Gonna. Happen.
There are lots of industries out there where markets are actually measured and analyzed. Come to these forums and people act like it's voodoo.
The home console market is pretty easy to measure because of Generation 6. PS2 + XBox + Gamecube = 158m + 25m + 22m = 205m. Now looking at Generation 8 we are far enough along to get good estimates, PS4 + XB1 + WiiU = 130m + 50m + 14m = 194m. The market size hasn't changed much (net) since Generation 6. The Wii temporarily gained and lost a lot of customers, which might confuse people. But comparing Generation 6 and 8 there is not much change. The handheld market is really easy to measure 3DS + Vita = 75m + 16m = 91m.
If you combine the home and handheld market that is a potential of 285m (194m + 91m) sales. Given, I do know there is some overlap, but it isn't so big of a deal as people say, since it is common for a household to own more than one handheld. I.e. a household that owns a PS4 and a 3DS can easily buy 2 Switches as well. However, lets just take the most conservative case anyway which is that there is 100% overlap between the home and handheld market and each household only buys one system. Even in that case Switch sells to the whole 91m handheld market plus to some percentage of the remaining 103m (194m - 91m) in the home market. Even in the extremely conservative case Switch has the potential to pass the DS.
Again, we're dealing with a lot of ambiguities here. While we have a good idea as to the total PS+Xbox market, the actual total console market isn't as clear. Nintendo is the wild card. Yes, the total global market may be well in excess of 200M. That doesn't mean that the Switch can sell some insane, unprecedented amount. Sure, the PS2 and DS both showed that a system can sell over 150M units by itself, so any system could potentially do that well. But it doesn't mean they can do that well. The PS2 and DS had some very specific circumstances that led to them selling as well as they did (the PS2 absolutely dominating the market, the DS being a handheld that likely had a significant periphery demographic of casuals and people that aren't really "gamers"). It's telling that, even when things are going the absolute best for a system, that only one handheld and one home console have crossed the 150M mark. Only four other systems have crossed the 100M mark so far, and one of those (the PS4) is poised to be only the third to get past 120M. What history shows us is that these milestones are not easy to pass. If they were, we'd see a lot of other systems with 100+M sales.
Also, the Switch has less potential than Nintendo's old dedicated handhelds for selling multiple units per household. Since it's a hybrid, it's designed to support local multiplayer and split-screen play, meaning one system can meet the needs of the whole household, as opposed to a pure handheld which is meant to be played by only one person, thus incentivizing the purchase of multiple units per household (their lower cost also helped facilitate that; the base model Switch is a lot more expensive than any Nintendo handheld was, and even the Lite is still on the high end).
That is why it is really too early to say it's impossible at this point. I personally have reason to believe that it is not just possible, but the likely result. However, I am just trying to present the idea that it is possible here. The market size indicates it is possible. And the current sales data won't give a strong indication who is right until after Switch has hit it's peak year. What is clear is that Switch sales are still accelerating. It's too early to call based on data alone.
Sure, it might not be absolutely 100% impossible, but it's incredibly improbable. I suppose it's possible that one day everyone on the internet will stop having meltdowns over fantasy films about space wizards or the size of a video game character's tits, but I doubt it. It's just incredibly improbable. I suppose it's possible that practical nuclear fusion will be a thing within my lifetime, but I doubt it. It's just incredibly improbable. I suppose it's possible I'll win the lottery at one point, but I doubt it. It's just incredibly improbable. There's a lot of things that might be technically possible, but simply aren't likely under any probable scenario.
People that are bullish enough about the Switch's sales to think it stands a good shot of besting the DS are hoping for something completely unprecedented to happen with its sales in the near future. Based on current sales levels, sales growth rates so far, and historical data that gives us clues about possible timing of peak sales, that hope is based on something completely and utterly implausible, bordering on impossible.
Not all records were made to be broken.
Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 22 February 2020