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Forums - Sales Discussion - December NPD 2020: Switch 2.1 million, PS5 800K, XBS 700K

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The Switch killing it as expected

Animal Crossing and Mario Kart in the top 5

PDiddy said:

From source on ERA:
Switch: ~2.1m
PS5: ~0.8m
XS: ~0.7m

Switch: 1,36m
PS5: 1.14m
XS: ~0.8m

Top 5 retail titles (units):
Cyberpunk 2077: ~1.2m
CoD: Black Ops: ~1.1m
NBA 2K21: ~0.8m
Animal Crossing: ~0.7m
Mario Kart: ~0.6m

CoD: Black Ops: ~1.1m
AC Valhalla: ~0.7m
Miles Morales: ~0.7m
NBA 2K21: ~0.4m
Hyrule Warriors: ~0.3m

It's very nice to get numbers of some sort.  CoD was the title that clearly dominated the holidays.  I know it always does well, but I like to see the actual numbers and like comparisons.  These are all physical units, so it actually is clear just how well it did even on a physical only basis.  Mario Kart is also incredible IMO, because it can still sell 600k in one month even though its basically a 3.5 year old port of a 6.5 year old game.  Hyrule Warriors did well for a musou game, but it clearly was no replacement for a normal holiday title from Nintendo.

How did AoC sell only 300k in the US in 2 weeks ?

xMetroid said:

How did AoC sell only 300k in the US in 2 weeks ?

Its a very good result for a Warriors game. Some people were getting way ahead of themselves with their expectations.

Last edited by Marth - on 21 January 2021

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Marth said:
xMetroid said:

How did AoC sell only 300k in the US in 2 weeks ?

Its a very good result for a Warriors game. Some people were getting way ahead of themselves with their expectations.

But it was announced to have shipped 3 million first week I believe.

That means they way overshipped worldwide or digital attach rate is high 

tag:"reviews only matter for the real hardcore gamer"

brute said:
Marth said:

Its a very good result for a Warriors game. Some people were getting way ahead of themselves with their expectations.

But it was announced to have shipped 3 million first week I believe.

That means they way overshipped worldwide or digital attach rate is high 

A combination of digital sales being strong and the 3 million shipment was meant to last through the holidays.

When the herd loses its way, the shepard must kill the bull that leads them astray.

Just wait 10 more days. Then we get the full update via Nintendo.

Chart Time!

Note: Yearly charts for the PS4 & XBO assume the #1 predictors on Era for Nov. & Dec. are the actual figures. If and when we get the actual numbers, the charts will be updated to reflect it, plus the monthly PS4 & XBO charts will be updated (I will omit them from this post).

First, the PS5 & XBS, since they're the new guys

Here's their total sales for their launch holiday:

Not too bad, all things considered. Despite stock issues, the PS5 still managed to sell nearly as well as the PS4. If there was more stock, it could have easily set a new record for best launch in the U.S. The Series X/S fell a good bit short of its predecessor (a gen-over-gen drop of nearly 18%), but is still the fourth-largest launch ever, and also could have done better as well had stock not been an issue. While PS being a strong global brand probably meant Sony was more justified in a simultaneous worldwide release this go around (though that choice did hurt sales in Japan), with two-thirds of Xbox sales coming from the U.S., Canada, & the UK, maybe MS should have done a staggered release, focusing on their best markets first and then waiting several months to release in other markets. Of course, it likely doesn't really matter in the long run either way. Launch sales are never a good indicator of how well a system will sell lifetime, and even unpopular systems can have good launches as new systems typically sell out, meaning supply is a bigger determinant of launch sales than demand. We will get a more accurate picture of how the PS5 and Series X/S will fare against each other in the coming months once stock issues are fully resolved.

Now for the Gen 8 systems.

The Switch sold roughly 9 million units in 2020. We still don't have an exact figure for March, and the 2.1M figure for December is rounded up to the nearest 100k. It's actually less, and the YoY jump was tiny (a bit over 1%). We know the Switch did at least 1M in March but apparently less than the DS's non-holiday month record of 1040k, but unless it was in the upper half of that range it did not pass the 9M mark for the year. Still, we're only talking margins of error of only about a couple of tens of thousands of units against either just slightly above or below 9M, which is only about 0.2% either way. Not nearly enough to make a visible difference on the charts.

It was overall the fifth best year for any gaming hardware platform ever since the NPD Group first starting tracking sales. A combination of the release of what has become one of the most popular games ever along with a pandemic that saw significant increases in spending on at-home entertainment, which was at least partially and likely heavily subsidized by stimulus checks, resulted in a full-year sales increase of at least 38% over 2019. While that's not even close to the largest YoY increase we've seen for a full year, it's certainly a significant jump over the Switch's previous two YoY increases (+15.8% in 2018 and +15.2% in 2019). It's also the second-largest Year 4 by far, bested only by the DS's 9.95M in 2008, and beating the Wii's performance in 2010 by nearly 2M units.

Despite that remarkable accomplishment, most of that growth came from the March-October period, which was up a whopping 107.3% from the same period in 2018. In numerical terms, the Switch sold about 2.48M more units in 2020 than in 2019, and 61% of that was just in the March-May period, with another 17.2% coming from October, meaning just four months accounted for over 78% of all YoY gains for the Switch. In addition to being down in the January+February period, the Switch was also very slightly down overall for the holiday period in 2020. While it managed a very healthy 3.42M, that wasn't enough for it to break into the all-time Top 10 holiday performances in the U.S., though it still landed at #12 (the Switch's holiday performance in 2019 lands ahead of it at #11). Maybe Nintendo should have saved some of that stock for the October restock for the holidays.

Could the Switch have done even better with better stock? Certainly. Would it have sold what it did in 2020 had there been no pandemic? I doubt it. Prior to the pandemic, few if any people were expecting the Switch to sell 9M units in the U.S. in 2020. The most optimistic predictions at Era had it selling around 7M. The Switch far exceeded expectations in 2020.

But will it continue to exceed expectations in 2021? While the pandemic does continue to linger and more stimulus checks are certain, with the vaccine starting to make the rounds things may start to go back to normal and people may start to spend money on away-from-home entertainment once again. 2020 was anything but normal, and if things do start to get back to normal this year it could cause Switch sales to slow quite significantly. Furthermore, there isn't anything of the level of Animal Crossing that's definitely on the slate for 2021 as of yet. Notable Q1 releases like SM3DW+BF, Bravely Default II, and Monster Hunter Rise could possibly help the Switch retain some momentum, they aren't likely to cause any notable spikes in sales in the U.S. (MH Rise will probably have a significant impact in Japan, though). Breath of the Wild 2 could see a 2021 release as well, but it's hard to say what kind of impact it would have on HW sales, especially if it's a late-year release. There's also the potential for new hardware models, but given the system's increasing age, hardware revisions may have less impact than they would if they were released earlier. Except for the Game Boy Color, which the market treated as an entirely new system (that also happened release when Pokemania was blowing up), no major hardware revision released past the 4-year mark has caused any significant increases in baseline sales, they have caused significant bumps in sales in the first month or two of release.

Overall, for the first half of 2021 to beat that of 2020, the Switch would have to average at least 130k units sold per week (520k for a 4-week month, 650k for a 5-week month). If it's only averaging 100k/week, by the end of June it will be at 2.6M for the first half, significantly lower (-23% YoY, approximately) than in 2020. Personally, I think we'll see something closer to 7 million for 2021, which is still a very strong year, especially for a Year 5 (only the DS did better than 7M in their fifth full year... way better, in fact).

Keeping its momentum into these early months of 2021 is one thing. What about its prospects of becoming the new #1 system ever in the U.S., as we've seen some people optimistically prognosticate? Well, let's compare it to the top three best-selling systems ever in the U.S.: the 360, the PS2, and the reigning king the DS.

The Switch still has a commanding lead over the 360 and has finally pulled ahead of what the PS2 sold in the 2001-04 period, but it's finally fallen behind the DS. Beating the DS was already an extremely tall task, and the Switch's chances of doing so become ever more remote with each passing month. The DS sold 11.2M units in 2009, its fifth year. The Switch is almost certainly not going to see the over 24% YoY growth it would need to match that, much less surpass it. The Switch will be deeper in the hole against the DS by the end of this year. The odds of it taking the new #1 spot in the U.S. are almost nil.

But what about third or even second place? Well, it's certainly possible given its current standing against the 360 and PS2. However, it's worth pointing out that the 360 was very backloaded, with 56.8% of its lifetime sales coming after Year 4 (a record, if I'm not mistaken), and the PS2 had a ridiculously long tail. The Switch could easily see its surpluses against them decline and possibly even enter deficit territory, especially given how quickly Nintendo systems tend to drop off very quickly once they get close to being replaced. Even the mighty DS had worse sales than the PS2 & 360 after Year 5. There's no reason to think the Switch will do better in that regard.

And remember, none of this is counting the launch holidays of the 360, PS2, & DS (which was done for purposes of aligning them by calendar months instead of launch month), so the Switch's surpluses in those charts are actually inflated.

The Switch has sold about 26M units LTD in the U.S. (meaning it passed the 3DS's lifetime total over the holidays). The lifetime sales of the 360, PS2, & DS are 43.2M, 46.7M, and 53.5M, respectively. That means that the Switch would have to sell the following quantities from 2021 onward to match those systems:

360: 17.2M
PS2: 20.7M
NDS: 27.5M

But what kind of sales do popular systems manage to net after their fourth year? What did the 360, PS2, & DS actually sell after Year 4? That's important, too, because they also take the top three spots for post-Year 4 sales, with the rankings as follows:

NDS: 26.12M
360: 24.57M
PS2: 19.43M

Given all of these facts, there aren't even any guarantees of the Switch knocking off the PS2 or even the 360 to take the #2 or #3 spot. I think it stands a decent shot of doing so, but it's far from certain. It could very well depend on if the Switch's successor comes out in 2023 or not until later, and it could be very close if it's sooner rather than later. And as for beating the DS, forget about it. The Switch's 2020 was an anomalous year, and shouldn't automatically be taken as any indication that it will set any sort of new records in terms of absolute numbers for post-Year 4 sales.

And for anyone who wants to criticize me for suggesting that the Switch might not become the new #1 system, well, it doesn't need to set any new records! It's doing perfectly fine. In fact, it's doing better than fine. It's doing great. It is absolutely no slight against the system if it sells "only", say, 42M instead of 47M or 50M or 55M. It's possible Sony and Microsoft might wish they could still pull off a system that sells over 40M units in the U.S. They've only done so themselves once each in the history of their console brands, with neither the PS4 nor XBO doing so and the PS5 and Series X/S unlikely to do so either. But Nintendo has done so twice already! Possibly three times depending on what the actual U.S. total was for the Game Boy (including the Color). And the DS is the only system to pass 50M in the U.S. Nintendo has nothing to prove by setting a new record. They'll just be adding another 40+ million-seller to their list. So no, I'm not trying to downplay anything.

Not much to say about the PS4 & XBO's showing this year that I haven't said in previous threads. They benefited from the pandemic early on, but that spike exhausted stock that was already going to be relatively limited given their ages and the fact that they were due for replacement. Their holiday sales in particular look to be absolutely horrible, even if they're closer what VGC estimates. They may have sold more for the year than what the chart posted earlier indicated, but maybe only by another 200-250k each. Despite the unusually strong showing back in the spring, they still managed to see their years as a whole decline significantly from 2019, as expected for systems in a replacement year.

And that concludes today's charts & commentary. This took me several hours to update the charts and write up the post, so I'm done talking about sales for today. I may post some more charts Monday if I have the time. I'll be busy all day tomorrow.

Last edited by Shadow1980 - on 01 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").

Switch at ~26m by the end of 2020 means that it only needs 20m more to pass the 360 and PS2. That's doable within the next three years with yearly sales of ~7m in 2021, ~6m in 2022 and ~6m in 2023. Switch still has plenty of revision and price cut options left, so prolonging high sales is likely in combination with Nintendo's continued commitment to the platform; every three months Nintendo reiterates that Switch is planned to have more than six years on the market before replacement, so expecting a successor before 2024 is willful ignorance. This in turn means that Switch has at least another three full holiday seasons all to itself.

As usual, it's worth noting that Switch is in both the home and handheld console markets, so it's still far from its saturation point. Eventually there will be a handheld-only Switch SKU that is sold for $149 including a bundled high-profile game, but the way Switch sales have been going, that's not going to be soon. The Wii was the only console in history to go more than two full years before receiving its first price cut. Switch has become the first console to go three full years, but not only that, in a good month it will be the first console to have gone four full years before receiving its first price cut.

So whenever Shadow1980 says something along the lines of "Switch won't be able to do this or that because there's no historic precedent," people need to remember that Switch is a series of events that have occured for the first time ever. Being a hybrid console is new, going that long without a price cut is new, Nintendo supporting only one console throughout its life... well, that's technically not new, but Shadow relies on NPD which did not track NES sales.

I need to brush up my vocabulary, because right now I can't think of an adjective that appropriately describes Shadow's bolded paragraph of "Switch doesn't need to set new records." Said 40m lifetime threshold is not a very distant goal when Switch could reach that by the end of 2022 already; you have to remember that Switch is already at 26m, so that's 7m per year to get to 40m within the next 24 months. And if it doesn't do it by then, it won't have fallen short by much.

Hardware sales momentum is driven by the health of the software pipeline which is why the DS and Wii were on very different sales trajectories when they entered their fifth year. If one wants to know what to expect from Switch going forward, they only have to look at the health of the software pipeline and ask themself if its closer to the DS or Wii. Even continued doubters like Shadow - who only one year ago said that it is about a 50/50 chance that Switch could pass the PS4 (will finish at ~36m lifetime) - have to grant Switch 7m in 2021 because the momentum is too good to go any lower. It's the same story year every year with Switch: The software pipeline is healthy, but people keep anticipating the sales trajectory of the Wii anyway. They have to concede that the current year will still be good, but then cast doubt on what will happen in the years beyond.

AAA third party publishers aren't and weren't going to support Switch in a big way, but their lack of support couldn't stop Switch from winning. The third parties who are on board with Switch have no reason to jump ship, especially after Sony bungled the PS5 debut in Japan in a big way. So the only thing that the launch of the remaining current gen consoles changed for Switch is that the level of confidence in Switch sales has increased, because the (unwarranted) feelings of concern that they could put a dent in Switch were confirmed to be unwarranted.

Anyway, the handheld market has always been a big blind spot in the analyses of the console market, so it's not surprising that it's forgotten about to account for it. People will come around to it eventually. After all, a year ago the majority still doubted that Switch would finish with higher global lifetime sales than the PS4, but today it's taken for granted that Switch will pass the PS4. In a year's time people will think differently about Switch vs. PS2/360 in the USA too.

Legend11 correctly predicted that GTA IV (360+PS3) would outsell SSBB. I was wrong.

A Biased Review Reloaded / Open Your Eyes / Switch Shipments