That's what I said, more or less. I think March 2024 is the most likely release date for the Switch's successor. IcaroRibeiro is the one wanting to compare the Switch to the Game Boy and its totally unique and bizarre life cycle.
That's the thing, we cannot rule out the contribution of other factors. We cannot rule out the cultural phenomenon and huge expansion of demographic reach of New Horizons, the expansion of Nintendo's manufacturing capacity, the compounding word of mouth as more Switches get out into the wild, households buying their second Switch so family members don't have to share, people who could initially only find a Lite upgrading to the Switch proper as it becomes available again, etc.
Was covid a factor? Sure. To say it's the only reason though is just not logical.
And again, trying to explain Switch's sales by insisting it can only repeat patterns of past systems doesn't work as there is no real precedent for the Switch.
If the primary reason is not the pandemic, then the timing is damn peculiar, as is the degree of growth.
The Switch was essentially flat from 2018 in the June-August period of 2019, got a decent bump from the Lite in September (not nearly as big as it got in Japan, though), with some residual effect that put October up about 21%. But November was barely up even with Pokemon, though December was up about 15% (maybe that Cyber Monday bundle, or maybe stock issues that weren't resolved until December?). Then January & February 2020 were down YoY. Whatever caused the modest boost early in 2019 was done by June, the Lite's effect was short-lived, Pokemon didn't seem to do much, and the system was down at the start of 2020. The PS4 & XBO were already slowing down rapidly in 2019.
The PS4 was down 27.4% YoY in 2019, while the XBO was down 29.7%. In the January-February period of 2020, they were down even more, 45.7% and 42.1%. Normal enough, considering the 360 & PS3 were down 27% and 24% respectively in 2012, the year before they were replaced. The 360 & PS3 were also down considerably through most of 2013 (-42.5% and -36.5% respectively for the year as a whole, -33.5% and 28.3% for the non-holiday period, and that's with Sept. & Oct. getting boosts from GTAV and the 360 getting holiday bundles). Again, quite normal considering it was getting closer to the releases of the PS4 & XBO.
So, no real indications that the Switch was going to experience any appreciable long-term growth any time soon, and relatively normal declines for the PS4 & XBO.
Then March happened.
The Switch experienced growth in weekly average sales of over 140% from February, making that March the second-best non-holiday month ever at the time for a system in the U.S., even in terms of weekly averages (March is a 5-week period), bested only by the DS's performance in April 2009. The PS4 & XBO both experienced relatively huge increases from February as well, with combined weekly average sales of the two being up nearly 75% from February. Even though both systems were down YoY by over 40% in the previous two months, they were both up 25% in March.
That's was... not normal. March sales in the U.S. are, at least in terms of weekly averages, almost always down from February, and on nearly ever case where March's weekly average was better than February's, it wasn't by much, maybe a few percent. The only other times prior to 2020 we've seen March be significantly up from February was with the N64 in 1997 (price cut issued that month), the PS2 in 2001 (restocks following supply issues), the GBA in 2003 (the releases of both the SP model and Pokemon Ruby & Sapphire), and the Wii in 2008 (the release of Smash Bros. Brawl).
With the Switch, at least it had the excuse of Animal Crossing, but even then that was an unusually large jump. The best month-to-month increase (excluding October-to-November), in terms of both percentage and absolute numbers, that can be attributed solely to a single game was the PS4 in Sept. 2014 when Destiny caused weekly average PS4 sales to increase 126.5%, or from an average 47.5k/week to 107.6k/week, an increase of 60k/week (that month was the best non-holiday month of the generation until March 2020, and was also the best one since Feb. 2011). The Switch completely shattered that record. The aforementioned >140% increase from February translated to an increase in weekly average sales of least 117k/week over February. That was odd considering Animal Crossing was never huge in the U.S. at that point. New Leaf sold decently (505k copies) and boosted the 3DS to 45k/week in June 2013, up from 28.5k/week in May. But that's a far cry from what New Horizons did (definitely well over 2M copies sold in March, maybe 3M or more, and likely a vastly bigger impact on hardware). Could Animal Crossing's popularity have surged that much all on its lonesome? Maybe. That can't be ruled out. But I still doubt that all of that growth we saw with the Switch in March was attributable to Animal Crossing. A lot of it? Yes. A majority of it? Possibly. All of it? No chance.
The PS4 & XBO had nothing going on to boost sales that month. No games big enough to drive growth of that scale. No price cuts. No nothing. So what's the deal? Why did every system experience a big jump in March 2020?
The answer is obvious: the pandemic was declared in March. Everything started shutting down. Movie theaters. Sports venues. Bowling alleys. People's options for entertainment were suddenly limited to things they could do at home... like video games. The pandemic perfectly explains the surge in demand for consoles. Without the pandemic, the PS4 & XBO would have had a March that was likely even worse than February. It stands to reason that if the PS4 & XBO were getting huge boosts from the pandemic, the Switch must be benefiting from it as well. There's absolutely no reason to think it was uniquely insulated. And comparing the Switch to them, it's possible that at least half of the boost in Switch sales may have been attributable solely to the effects of the pandemic. The Switch probably would have sold over 700k in March regardless, if AC's surge in popularity was wholly organic and not also itself largely attributable to the pandemic (something impossible to determine one way or the other), so it still would have likely been a very good month without the pandemic, just not a record-setting one.
And this is just March, before any stimulus checks went out. Those first started coming in April, which saw an even larger surge in PS4 & XBO sales, and the Switch maintaining its weekly average instead of declining like what one would expect for the month after the release of a big system-seller. May saw relatively soft drops, and demand was still elevated. Even the PS4 & XBO were still up a bit YoY. While the XBO suffered from depleted stock probably in late June and never fully recovered, the PS4 had enough stock to last it through September.
The PS4 sold about 863,000 units in the U.S. in the May-September period of 2020, the second most about of units sold of any console in the same period in its replacement year after the PS2. This is a decline of only 8.5% for the May-September period of 2019, where the PS4 sold 943,000 units. This is the lowest decline in baseline sales of any system ever in its replacement year in the U.S. For reference, the Xbox 360 sold 626,000 units in the May-Sept. period of 2013 compared to 1,083,000 in the same period of 2012, a decline of 42.2%. Under normal circumstances, throughout all of 2020 the PS4 likely would have been down from 2019 on average by at least 30-40% given what the 360 & PS3 were doing in 2013 and where it was at itself at the start of 2020. Even the PS2, which declined slower than pretty much every other system ever, declined 19.1% in the May-Sept. period of 2006 (its replacement year) compared to the same period in 2005, far more than what we saw with the PS4.
Between the two of them, the PS4 & XBO managed to sell about 1,282,000 units in the May-September period of 2020 versus 1,528,000 units in the same period of 2019, a decline of 16.1%. Compare this to the 360 & PS3, which sold 1,186,600 units in the May-Sept. 2013 period versus 1,885,000 units in the same period in 2013, a decline of 37%. Combined PS4 & XBO sales managed considerably smaller drops than combined 360 & PS3 sales and even outperformed them in their respective replacement years despite lagging behind the prior year, and that's with the XBO's stock issues and the PS3 and (to a lesser extent) the 360 both getting a solid bump from Grand Theft Auto V in September 2013. This indicates higher demand for the PS4 & XBO than what one would have normally expected, which appears to confirm that the "COVID bump" was not limited to just March & April. That they didn't do even better was because they were old systems on the verge of replacement, well past peak demand and with insufficient stock to maintain better-than-expected sales for the entirety of 2020.
And if the PS4 & XBO over-performed in the wake of pandemic, then the Switch must have done so as well. The Switch's massive sales even after the initial March-April spike are not simply a case of "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" in relation to the pandemic. There is a clear cause-and-effect relationship, as the rest of the console market showed. The Switch was already down YoY at the start of 2020, started blowing up at the same time the PS4 & XBO, and there was clearly elevated demand for consoles in general throughout the year.
Going by its initial level of sales, had 2020 followed a more normal trajectory following that sort of start, then even if AC got a few hundred extra hardware units pushed through the doors, the Switch might have been merely flat YoY, give or take a few percentage points... like the average predictions made at the start of 2020 were assuming. There's no reason to assume that the Switch would have experienced significant growth without the pandemic "just because." That kind of growth needs a clear cause, something that could generate significant increases in demand, and every usual cause of growth has been ruled out, leaving just the pandemic. The timing fits. The impacts on its spending in general are well documented. The impact of large across-the-board windfalls for taxpayers is well documented. While AC was a definite factor for March and maybe even also April, almost all of the gains in 2020 were due to the COVID bump. It is inescapable. The only reason to deny it is if one feels the need to somehow prove the Switch fully earned those sales primarily on its own merit, with outside factors playing an at best limited role. But if you feel there's good reason to believe the Switch would have still experienced massive growth without the pandemic, that's up to you to prove that demand can grow that much absent factors like a price cut or new hardware revision (and the Lite has already been ruled out, as I've explained before).
And sorry, but I don't have to accept that the Switch is some unique phenomenon that the rules don't apply to.