20 years selling Nintendo consoles

Since its 2017 release, the Nintendo Switch has become a home gaming console for gamers and non-gamers alike.

There are few consoles that penetrate the mainstream deep enough for parents to think of the console under its real name, instead of the “Gameboy” or “Wii” of their children. Even fewer of them come together as a complete package that connects the ideologies and technical ideas of their previous consoles like the Nintendo Switch.

This graphic shows the success story of the Nintendo Switch sales along with more than 20 years of Nintendo console sales.

Nintendo console sales history

Nintendo has a long history in gaming – but since the release of the original Game Boy in 1989, the company has favored a two-pronged approach to its gaming consoles: having both a portable handheld console and a home console that connects to the TV market.

Game Boy and SNES (1990) were the first versions of this strategy and reached more than 160 million sold units combined establishing legendary game franchises with esteemed sequels like Super Mario World i The Legend of Zelda: A Connection to the Past.

Game Boy variants, such as the Game Boy Pocket (1996) and Game Boy Color (1998), extended the life of the handheld so much that it followed another home console, and the Nintendo 64 came out in 1996 and sold 32.93 million unit.

These successes proved that the gaming audience will support two separate Nintendo consoles in the market, and Nintendo has maintained a next-generation strategy.

Lifetime sales of the Nintendo console

Console Year of issue Units sold
(as of September 30, 2020)
NES 1983 61.91 М
The player 1989 118.69 M
SNES 1990 49.1 M
Nintendo 64 1996 32.93 M
Game Boy Advance 2001 81.51 M
Nintendo GameCube 2001 21.74 M
Nintendo DS 2004 154.02 M
Nintendo Wii 2006 101.63 M
Nintendo 3DS 2011 75.94 М
Wii U 2012 13.56 M
Nintendo Switch 2017 68.3 M

Source: Nintendo

The next generation, made up of the Game Boy Advance (2001) and Nintendo GameCube (2001), recorded slightly lower sales numbers, but competed against Microsoft’s gaming debut with the original Xbox (2001) and the incredibly popular Sony Playstation 2 (2000). .

While the GameCube was selling 21.7 million total units sold and the original Xbox ~ 24 million overall units, the Playstation 2 has dominated this generation and is still the best-selling video game console of all time 155 million units sold

The success of the Wii and Nintendo DS sales

While Sony and Microsoft pushed for HD display and greater graphics fidelity in their next-generation consoles, Nintendo focused on how the games were played, not on raw power.

This was brought about by the Nintendo DS (2004), which added a second touch screen for game developers, and the Nintendo Wii (2006), which made pioneering motion and accessibility controls a simpler Wii remote control.

Both the Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii achieved runaway success, dominating their generation with more than 255 million combo consoles sold

At the same time, Sony tried to replicate Nintendo’s strategy with its own handheld consoles, the PSP (2004) and PS Vita (2011), and while selling 80 million units and ~ 10-15 million unit, or Sony eventually left the handheld market.

Declining sales of Nintendo 3DS and Wii U

Nintendo was clearly the king of the handheld market. Although it was feared that mobile phones would be portable killer consoles, the Nintendo 3DS sold well when it came out in 2011 (75.94 million unit) and was Nintendo’s saving grace for his generation.

What didn’t hold up well was Nintendo’s home console upgrade to Wii, Wii U. The console only reached 13.56 million lifelong sales, and the Playstation 4 quickly overshadowed (113.5 million units sold) and Xbox One~ 51 million units sold) issues in 2013

Poor Wii Ua sales led to one of Nintendo’s worst periods in recent history, with two unprofitable years for the company in 2012 and 2014. Although developers had previously rushed to create games for Wii’s motion controls, the Wii Ua tablet controller did not attract the same kind of innovative software development.

Nintendo’s net income since 2000

Year Net income (USD)
2000 490 USD mil
2001 734 USD mil
2002 $ 896 M
2003 627 USD mil
2004 $ 324 M
2005 $ 742 M
2006 $ 827 mil
2007 1,561 USD M
2008 2.838 USD M
2009 $ 3,003 M
2010 2.819 USD M
2011 1,010 USD mil
2012 – $ 498 million
2013 $ 67 million
2014 – $ 194 million
2015 $ 348 M
2016 $ 141 mil
2017 910 USD mil
2018 $ 1,273 M
2019 $ 1,787 M
2020 2,500 USD M

Source: Nintendo

How the Nintendo Switch consolidated Nintendo’s strategies

Due to the poor performance of the Wii U, which left Nintendo in a difficult place, the next edition of the console was crucial to the company’s success.

The Nintendo Switch arrived at a time in 2017 when sales of the Wii U dried up, and the new hybrid home and portable console are currently a success. By the end of fiscal year 2018, the Switch had already surpassed the Wii U with 17 million units sold

Although the success story of the Nintendo Switch came largely from the way it combined home and handheld games, the console generated many of Nintendo’s strategies and technical decisions.

Many Wii remote control features are still present in the Joy-Consima Switch, with built-in accelerometers and motion control gyroscopes, along with the ability to rotate them sideways for a more classic controller configuration. The touchscreen of the Nintendo DS has permeated many Nintendo consoles and is still present in the Switch, and looking back at the Wii U tablet controller, it now seems like an early prototype for the free-form portability of the Switch.

A combination of physical and digital play

Nintendo’s foray into physical toys, which began with Amiibo figures, is also gradually evolving and merging physical and digital gaming thanks to the Switch.

In 2018, the company issued Nintendo Labo, a custom cardboard set that integrates with the Switch and its Joy-Cons for a variety of games and experiences. Edition for 2020 Mario Kart Live: Home Circle pushed this further, with players able to build a Mario Kart track in their home to race on physical go-karts under Switch control.

The company continues to branch into other areas by opening the Super Nintendo World theme park at Universal Studios in Osaka, Japan, on February 4, 2021. The theme park will also combine the digital and physical worlds, with virtual coin collecting and other prizes tracked on mobile phones, enhancing the experience for visitors.

Expanding Nintendo’s audience to more than just gamers

The success of the Nintendo Switch led to more experimentation and fresh ideas from the company, and the COVID-19 pandemic made it a key product of 2020. With many families at home due to locking, the console could be pulled from plug and unplug TV in manual mode , changed the game.

While Nintendo’s development team can prepare for its next console with a little more financial room to breathe thanks to Switch’s excellent sales, the company has worked hard to expand its audience. Physical toys for younger audiences help catch a new generation of Nintendo fans, while older generations of fans will be excited to visit the Super Nintendo World and indulge in nostalgia while Nintendo will introduce itself to their children.

As Nintendo Switch’s excellent game library continues to expand, new and old fans will be thrilled to see which consoles, games and other products come from the legendary gaming company.