Nintendo raises Switch sales forecast after monster holiday quarter

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Nintendo has posted earnings for a huge holiday quarter in which the Switch sold more consoles than ever. 11.57 million consoles were moved in total, bringing the Switch close to 80 million sold since its 2017 launch. Nintendo has increased its forecast for the fiscal year ending March 31st to 26.5 million Switch units, also boosting its net profit estimate 33 percent to 400 billion yen, or about $3.82 billion.

The Switch has now outsold the 3DS in terms of lifetime sales, with the older handheld reaching a total of 75.94 million units before production was ended. Only 730,000 3DS games were shipped during the last quarter, underlining that the platform really is dead at this point.

It was also a massive quarter for Nintendo in terms of software sales, with nearly 76 million units sold. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Animal Crossing: New Horizons both crossed the 30 million mark for the first time, while The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Pokémon Sword/Shield have now sold more than 20 million each.

Nintendo already raised its fiscal year forecast to 24 million Switch units from 19 million three months ago, citing increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with more than 12 million consoles shipped already at that point in the year, it was still a fairly conservative prediction; last year’s holiday quarter saw Nintendo ship almost 11 million consoles.

The biggest Switch title coming in the next quarter is likely to be Capcom’s Monster Hunter Rise, while expanded Wii U port Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury is also coming later this month. Both games will be offered as part of Switch hardware bundles, which could further boost Switch sales for the rest of the fiscal year.

Comments

Good to see the platform thriving, but I’m worried that such high sales will act as a sign to Nintendo that we don’t need a hardware refresh because everybody is happy to buy the old model. I’ve been saying for at least a year that I’d gladly buy a Switch Pro, but they clearly feel no pressure to put one on the market…

This. I was hoping the switch would go the route of smartphones and refresh with latest portable CPU/GPU every few years… I guess not.

It’s frustrating that Nintendo are at least two generations behind in terms of hardware. I know graphics aren’t everything. they have some of the best franchises on the planet and make some of the best games….. but damn…. It could be another two consoles… 12 years time… until we actually see a Zelda/Metroid/Mario rendered with normal modern game engine stuff like anti-aliasing, hi-res textures, 4k, 60fps, ray-tracing etc…

I was hoping the switch would go the route of smartphones and refresh with latest portable CPU/GPU every few years

That’s actually detrimental to the platform, because it fragments the devices wrt. the games that they support.

However, there are other ways in which a "pro" or "super" model could add freshness: faster persistent storage (so loading goes faster; slower loading doesn’t make games unplayable), higher-quality display, better construction, joy-cons that don’t drift (>:-/), etc.

I’d gladly buy a Switch Pro

Not only would I buy a Switch Pro, but I’d pass my current Switch down to someone else in the family that otherwise wouldn’t get their own.

It’s a win/win for Nintendo.

I’ll make a counter-argument: THey should ride it out for another 3 years. If they can hold on for about 3 years, plenty of R&D into ARM computing for gaming should be feasible enough for them to super charge the Switch and still excel at battery life.

Agree—it’s the timing, both maybe technical-side but obviously the demand has not slowed much due to various factors. Once they see the signs a refresh will roll out.

The problem isn’t hardware. The Shield runs on the Nvidia Tegra X1, which has always been capable of 4K graphics as other devices that use that chip have it. Instead, the problem is the OS. Nintendo originally wanted CyanogenMod – a company who offered a competing forked Android operation – to create an antipiracy version of Android for the Switch. Had they agreed, the Switch would have been a 4K device. Instead CyanogenMod – for reasons that made absolutely no sense (especially considering they filed for bankruptcy shortly after) – refused, which forced Nintendo to work with Nvidia to get their 3DS operating system working on the Switch instead.

So even were Nvidia (or Qualcomm or Samsung) to make a 3nm mobile chip that is within the ballpark of what the PS5 is capable of for Nintendo 3 years from now, Nintendo would still need to be capable of creating an OS that jumps from the PS3 to the PS5, or at least PS4 Pro.

Would it be worth rebuilding the OS understanding that a lot of services rely on OS stuff to make it happen?

Absolutely. Nintendo normally does their own hardware/software for each console anyway. They weren’t able to for the Switch because it was a "rush job to save the company from bankruptcy" deal. They literally went from "we are fully committed to the Wii U for this generation" to getting the Switch on the market in less than two years. To get it done they totally cribbed – via licensing and paying Nvidia of course – the Shield K1 (the only real difference is that its screen is slightly smaller … the K1 had the dock and even third party controllers very similar to the Joy-Cons) and used an existing OS, which should have been Android – lots of modders have already figured out how to get Android running on it! – but "Nintendo 3DS system software" was good enough.

Next time out they will actually be able to write a proper OS to go with their own hardware design, and that OS will be able to support a lot more – and better – services than the Switch currently does.

A Switch Pro is coming this year. Switch 2 will come in 2023.

Where do you get "3 years" from?

It’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, but I’m pretty sure that a $300 smartphone can manage better than Switch-quality graphics on a 1080p display, today. That’s what I’m hoping for: handheld performance equal to or a bit better than the current console in docked mode, driving a slightly larger (7-8") 1080p display.

I don’t think we need any big advances in ARM computing to get there, I think we’re there already. It shouldn’t be a question of battery life — after a die shrink, consumption-per-FLOP goes down. It shouldn’t be about price, either — the competition already established a two-tier system with prices at $300-400-500, so this would sit alongside the older model, rather than replacing it.

I don’t think Nintendo has any technical issues building a faster Switch. I suspect that they won’t do so super-soon because they want to keep their game-base unfragmented. I.e., if developers have to decide between engineering their games for the original Switch capabilities vs. the enhanced one, I suspect overall total game revenue would actually go down: Customers on the new platform would hesitate to get "low-requirement games" and (obviously) the 80+ million on the old platform couldn’t get the "high-requirement games".

So Nintendo is probably better off carefully curating a more-unified Switch platform for a few years longer. They could still introduce a model that doesn’t provide faster CPU/GPU capabilities, but does offer other incentives, like a better screen and/or faster SSD storage.

Again, the competition has already shown us a model for this. Both Xbox and Playstation released mid-cycle "pro" versions that simply run old games at higher framerates and/or resolution. IIRC there was never any talk of "exclusives" that only run on XB1X / PS4Pro, though some games did get a patch to better take advantage of the additional horsepower. That’s exactly what Nintendo should be doing: provide enough extra headroom to tell the game you’re in docked mode, 1080p, all the time. Just that, alone, would be enough to get me to buy the console. Of course games that release after a hardware refresh could explicitly take advantage of additional capabilities, but we already have years of proof that even small-time devs are capable of optimizing for two targets.

As stated above, you can get 4K graphics on an 8’ screen with the Switch’s CPU, because that is what the Nvidia Shield K1 gave you. The problem is that the Shield K1 ran Android, which is capable of 4K, and the Switch runs the Nintendo 3DS OS, which isn’t.

Battery life isn’t a problem either. The Switch CPU is ancient: the Tegra K1 originally came out in 2014 and was refreshed in 2015 (the Switch has the 2015 version) and is on a 16nm process. So a current chip – even a cheap MediaTek one – would be on a 6nm or 7nm process and have much better battery life, in addition to being superior in every single way.

However, my bet is that Kirielson doesn’t merely want an Nintendo Switch to compete with, say, this year’s Samsung Galaxy Tab S8+. Instead, he probably wants something that that surpasses even Apple’s current M1 chip by offering 8K with ray-tracing … and do it while retaining the Switch’s current form factor. When you consider that the PS5 has a 7nm AMD APU in it that runs very hot and needs a ton of power, 2-3 years would be optimistic, even if you account for that AMD APU not using a big.LITTLE architecture like the Tegra chip does.

I think Cyberpunk shows perfectly what usually happens when you try "forward compatibility" and suddenly game companies feel like they have to develop new games for both new and old platforms. They waste a lot of resources and still disappoint.

People have been asking for a Switch Pro since pretty much launch – or maybe at most a few months after launch.

It’s not going to happen while the original Switch is still crushing on the sales front. There is no reason they should cannibalize their current Switch sales for a revision just because a niche portion of their user base wants an update.

I’d instantly pre-order a Switch 2/Pro, but I fully understand why we won’t get one from a business standpoint.

That doesn’t even address the tech standpoint – can they make that much of leap on components for the Switch’s form factor while keeping the price in line?

As an individual who has no desire to fight with bots and ebay opportunists over scant Series X/S and PS5 stocks, and has other hobbies to compete with gaming, I got a Switch Lite last autumn to see about some first-party and indie offerings. Indies have taken the bulk of my interest. And many of them haven’t required any deprecations on the part of the developers to have parity with the other consoles. I was wary of throwing $200 after a 5.5" 720p screen, but damn if it’s not doing the job of keeping me happy. If it continues to for a year or two or before a hardware update, and plenty of hits like Hades land on Switch, it will remain relevant for me.

You have to give it to Nintendo, they’re in their own lane, making innovative consoles that the whole family can grab and play. They obviously do not have a massive library like the other big consoles, but I really respect them for what they have done and are doing. Gaming isn’t all about ray tracing and processing power. I have bought into the new generation of consoles, but the Switch continues to get strong playtime in my house because it is fun for the whole family.

Indeed.

I feel the 1st-party Nintendo games also are better thought out in terms of gameplay (I realize that’s very subjective). The top-games on other platforms take themselves "too seriously" for me, and some of them just lack depth (also true for most of the 3rd-party games on the Switch, TBH).

E.g., I haven’t found anything that brings an experience close to that of Super Mario Kart, Splatoon, or Super Mario Odyssey. It’s maybe less true for, e.g., Super Smash Bros Ultimate, where Brawhalla provides a similar alternative, or Breath of the Wild but even there the Nintendo execution still has an edge in depth and gameplay, IMO.

There are lots of companies which increased due to the pandemic:)

People were so damn skeptical when I said back in 2017 that this console was going to outsell the Wii, maybe even PS2. Here we are now & it’s more than on pace to do so. It was easy to foresee!

Nice use of brand.

And they’re going to get me for a third one on February 12th. Damn you Nintendo.

I lost count of how many Switch consoles I’ve owned. They created a gem. Inarguably one of the Nintendo’s greatest consoles.

Well, if I’m being completely honest, it will technically be my fourth. I briefly owned the Animal Crossing version before coming to my senses.

The Switch succeeds in the same way that Apple has for the past 20 years. The physical hardware itself is so desirable, it imparts a social status (barf, I know). Just like the yearly iPhone, people just want it. Also, like the iPhone, once you get it and start using it, you realize, oh this thing is pretty damn good to use, too.

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