I believe the answer is yes, and quite easily. It is often talked about that since Nintendo only has one hybrid device, they are still losing money when compared to other generations where they had both a dedicated home console and a handheld if it cannot match the hardware sales of both devices combined. Well this simply does not seem to be the case. Sure they will lose a little bit when it comes to per unit sold, but as we all know the bulk of a company's profit will come from software sales rather than hardware.
So the real question is actually will it sell as much or more SOFTWARE than previous generations, rather than can it match hardware sales. The reason for this being that many people who bought one hardware, often also bought the other (like GC and GBA for example). With the libraries not being shared, software was divided amongst the two platforms. With the Switch however the same amount of households will have one with less total units sold, which leads to software sales potential being the same or greater due to a shared library for their console and handheld games. Lets look at a few examples...
In the previous generation WiiU plus 3DS sold about 89 million in hardware, but only about 486 million in software. The Switch alone, in half the time of the 3DS itself, is already at 356 million in software with little more than half the install base. Given that the Switch will likely pass 100 mil within its life in hardware sales, this number will only continue to increase at a rate that makes it a safe bet to assume it will pass WiiU and 3DS. This is obviously because while there is less hardware on the market, the software is no longer divided between two platforms.
Ah but I can hear some people now..."Why not compare it to Wii and DS!?"
Well the reason for that is the same reason people do not guage success for the PS4 based on the PS2 (though the specifics differ). Due to timing and a lighting in a bottle strategy, many factors led to why the Wii and DS sold so much combined. The software library was not only aimed at "core gamers" but also many very casual gamers that have since moved on to phone games. This extra influx of consumers led to many more casual titles like Wii Fit and Wii Sports to sell in droves, which is the source of the inflates software sales. Now there are other factors as well, but the point is clear to everyone at this point. Much like we will never see PS2 numbers when it comes to home consoles, Wii/DS numbers combined will always remain out of reach.
So lets look at a few more then, software only as this is what the thread is really all about...
GC plus GBA = about 586 mil units
N64 plus GB = about 626 mil units
SNES plus GB = about 880 mil units
NES was by itself at = about 500 mil units
But wait, there is a bit more to it. The Game Boy spanned 2 consecutive console cycles, so those two generations are not accurate at face value. What we can do to get a rough idea however, is divid the GB's 501 units by how well it sold during each time period. This puts the GB at 200 mil and 300 mil software units for SNES and N64 (rough estimate). So in reality, it is more like...
N64 plus GB = 524 mil
SNES plus GB = 583 mil
So as you can see, if the Switch even passes 700 mil software units sold it will have successfully been more of a hit than EVERY generation of combined Nintendo handheld and console releases in terms of software sales (where most of the profit is found). The only exception to this, is of course, Wii and DS.
So having said that, the fixation on whether or not Switch will match combined hardware sales of home and portable devices is null and void. What really matters is the software sales, in which case Nintendo is more successful than ever with the Switch alone. This also shows that without a shadow of a doubt, going with a hybrid device is perhaps the smartest decision they have ever made.
So what do you all think? Will Switch pass 700 mil in total software sales and become Nintendo's second most successful generation, or will it fall short of that mark and why? Personally I feel Switch will match what the Wii and DS did on their own, and break 900 mil or even a billion software units sold.
Source for sales data:
Corrected a mistake I made where I had GB split into the NES generation as well. Thank you Conina for the correction and info!Last edited by Shiken - on 24 May 2020