Now for the assorted lead/deficit and associated charts:
The combined surplus the PS4 & XBO have over the 360 & PS3 remains over 3 million units, but we should expect it to get lower than that. In fact, the continued existence of that surplus is likely in jeopardy. In September, the PS4 runs up against what was GTAV's launch month on the PS3, that game causing a big jump in PS3 sales over the previous month. While the PS4 continues to have a large insurmountable surplus, that could dip a bit next month, though after that its lead should resume growing. The XBO meanwhile continues to see its deficit against the 360 grow. Whatever leads the PS4 gains against the PS3, the XBO's deficit negates and then some, resulting in the downward slide we've seen in their net surplus (which was briefly reversed a bit and continues to be slowed down by the COVID bump). Considering that the 360 had one extra year before being replaced, that 3M-unit surplus could evaporate completely before the PS4 & XBO are discontinued as the XBO's deficit is likely to accelerate its growth next year. However, even if they fall behind, the fact that the PS4 & XBO having one fewer year than the 360 is what caused them to do so shows how well they have been selling during the generation proper.
Where exactly the Switch will end up at the end of its life is still up in the air. At this point, it's clear that it should get to at least 40M in the U.S. That's enough to put it into the Top 5 best-selling systems ever in the U.S. But how far past 40M remains to be seen. Some people are convinced it can do a lot better than even that, maybe even become the new #1. However, to do that it needs to get past the reigning kings of consoles and handhelds: the PS2 and DS.
Beat the DS is an uphill battle, one that the Switch will probably lose. The DS sold a staggering 53.5M units in the U.S. lifetime. While it started off with a surplus against the DS, that surplus has been shrinking (and note that I'm not even counting the 1225k units the DS sold in its launch quarter). While the March-May period did reverse that a bit, the surplus is once again starting to shrink. The Switch will need to have a near record-setting holiday season this year and maintain an average baseline of at least 125k/week (500k/month for a 4-week month) in 2021 just to keep pace. Considering that even with this year's sales having been boosted by the one-two punch of AC and the pandemic the Switch has sold on average about 123k units per week over the past eight months, there are reasonable doubts that it can keep things up at this level for another year or two.
And to even start to challenge the DS, the Switch has to get past the PS2. It currently continues to run a deficit against the PS2. That deficit is currently shrinking, though the majority of that deficit reduction came in just the past six months, and half of it from just March & April. The PS2 did after all peak earlier than the Switch, which may currently be at its peak here in its fourth year. But will the Switch's deficit evaporate and become a surplus? Perhaps. The PS2 did have a weak holiday season in 2004 due to shortages of the Slim, and that could very well get them to be a near match (though again, I am excluding the PS2's launch quarter here, which amounted to 1.1M units). But even if the Switch does gain a surplus, that could once again go into full reverse and head back to deficit territory. If it does, that'll be because of the PS2's long tail. Unlike every other system, it did not suffer a massive drop the year it was replaced and it continued to sell well for a while after the PS3 was released, selling nearly 11.3M units from Nov. 2013 onward. That was a big reason it was able to hold on to its title as the reigning #1 home console ever despite formidable challenges by the Wii and Xbox 360. Can the Switch succeed where those other systems failed? Maybe, but it's far from guaranteed. If the Switch drops back down to 2019 levels next year, it will probably fail to pass the PS2. Nintendo systems have poor legs, and once the Switch is inevitably replaced that's going to hurt it against the PS2's long tail.
@javi741. AC is the fastest-selling Nintendo exclusive worldwide. In the U.S., maybe not. It's not clear, as we haven't gotten exact sales figures for each month, plus NPD doesn't track digital. We do know that, of all Nintendo exclusives ever, it sold only the third-highest amount of copies at retail in its first month. Smash Ultimate is #1 at about 3.6M copies and Smash Brawl is at #2 at 2.7M copies (SSBU apparently also had, and possibly still has, the #1 debut of any exclusive on any system ever). So, that puts a hard upper limit of 2.7M for the number of physical copies that AC sold in March. For all we know it could be a good bit less than that (I'm not sure what the previous #3 best-debuting Nintendo exclusive was in the U.S., but if we knew it, it would give us the floor for AC's sales at retail in March). And we do know that AC sold 179k at retail in August, so for all we know it could have been very front-loaded.
While we don't know the digital split for Nintendo games, based on an estimate by Nielsen the WW split was something like 40-45% digital for AC in its first month, which if that's also the case for the U.S. would put AC at between 4.5-4.9M copies sold in the March sales period, at most. If SSBU sales were less than 25% digital in its first month, then AC beats it, but maybe not by much. Even with only 10% digital share in the U.S., SSBU still sold at least 4M copies. But considering that Nintendo never came out and bragged about AC beating SSBU in the U.S., that isn't encouraging for AC beating it for all-time #1 best debut ever for an exclusive.
And we've seen what other games that have had very high first-month sales have done. Halo 3 sold 3.3M in its first month in the U.S., and it's unlikely to have moved much more than 200k surplus 360 units that month. GTAV sold some 7M copies at retail between the 360 & PS3 in its first month, yet moved roughly 175k surplus units of both systems that month. And if we attribute all of the Switch's YoY growth in Dec. 2018 to just Smash Ultimate, then it moved only about 260k surplus Switch units that month despite selling 3.6M at retail. Not exactly record-breaking. The idea that AC is doing something like five times what the previous confirmed record was for most surplus consoles moved is not reasonable. Just because it had a very good start, one of the best ever, doesn't mean it was able to move 2M surplus consoles on its own.
And I've already dealt with the gender ratio argument in a previous post.