The Nintendo Switch is now the third-bestselling console of all time, surpassing both the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Game Boy in total lifetime units sold. Nintendo’s third quarter earnings report shows that the Switch, Switch OLED, and Switch Lite achieved 8.2 million combined unit sales between October 1st and December 31st in 2022, bringing the total lifetime unit sales for the console to 122.55 million since it was released in 2017.
That pushes the Nintendo Switch past the 118.69 million combined units achieved by the Game Boy and Game Boy Color (classed singularly as just “Game Boy” by Nintendo) and the final 117.2 million unit total reported by Sony for the PS4. Despite this milestone, Switch sales were off 23 percent compared to the 10.6 million units sold in the same quarter last year. Switch game sales also decreased by 4 percent year over year despite the popularity of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, which broke records to become the fastest-selling games in Nintendo’s history.
Nintendo will increase wages for Japanese employees by 10 percent, despite a fall in quarterly revenue
Nintendo has subsequently lowered its end-of-year forecasts for both hardware and software sales in the face of these declines but has also announced plans to increase salaries by 10 percent for current and future employees based in Japan. Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa said that increasing wages will help strengthen the company’s hiring power, following similar moves from other large Japanese corporations amid an increasingly tight labor market.
In August last year, Nintendo reported that production for the Switch console was impacted by the global chip shortage, which decreased shipments and overall sales. Production levels have apparently since recovered, and Nintendo recently predicted that sales will increase over 2023 as a result of the increased supply. However, it now seems that an overall fall in demand for the Switch may have also contributed to the disappointing sales figures. “The outcome was weak and that’s a surprise. The year-end holiday season suggested sales of hardware weren’t that strong despite amplified supply, which also weakened sales of software,” Toyo Securities analyst Hideki Yasuda said to Bloomberg. “It’s now clear that the Switch’s momentum is downward.”
The Switch now sits in third place for global unit sales behind the Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2
In the face of its decreasing popularity, the Switch still has a way to go in order to become the bestselling console of all time. The Nintendo DS is sitting pretty in second place with 154 million units sold — a figure that doesn’t include the 75.9 million units reported for the Nintendo 3DS — while the Sony Playstation 2 reigns in first place with over 155 million reported unit sales.
Nintendo could still increase demand for the Switch by releasing special-edition models of the console alongside its major upcoming releases, such as The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. As Yasuda predicts, “If Nintendo prepares at least two special editions, it can still sell more than 20 million units in the next fiscal year.” There’s also a chance that Nintendo will release a “Switch Pro” model in the future, which could be included alongside unit sales for the OLED, Lite, and original Switch models — giving the console a better chance to dethrone the PS2.
Interestingly, one of the few areas where Nintendo did see significant growth was in playing cards, which earned 4.1 billion yen (around $31.1 million) between April 1st and December 31st, 2022, against the 2.1 billion yen (around $15.9 million) reported for the same period the previous year. That’s meager earnings compared to the total 1,295 billion yen (around $9.8 billion) earned through video game sales (which includes hardware, games, and software), but that 88 percent increase suggests that the explosive popularity of Pokémon cards last year wasn’t being overhyped.