Nintendo Switch Surpasses GameCube, But …

Posted on October 30, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Games with 18 Comments

The Nintendo Switch Has Upended the Video Game Market

Nintendo has sold more Switch consoles in 15 months than it did GameCubes over that device’s entire lifetime. But the Switch continues to falter when compared to the surprisingly resilient Sony PlayStation 4 against which it actually competes.

To date, Nintendo has sold over 22 million Switch consoles. That’s up from the 20 million units sold as of the end of July, with 3.19 million units sold in the most recent quarter. And Nintendo is expecting another huge holiday quarter as well.

Games sales are surging, too: Nintendo has sold 42 million Switch titles in the past six months alone, a 91 percent surge over the previous year. Mario Tennis Aces, with 2.16 million units sold, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, with 1.67 million, are the big standouts.

Compared to its predecessors, the Switch is a smash hit. The Wii U was a dud and sold just 11 million units during its lifetime. And the older GameCube sold just under 22 million units over a period of six years.

But compared to the PlayStation 4, the Switch doesn’t look so hot. Sony noted that PS4 sales were down year-over-year for the first time this past February. But the PS4 has already surpassed the total lifetime sales of its own predecessor, hitting 83 million units at the end of July.

By many measures, 2018 will be the platform’s best year. As a result, Sony has already lifted its forecast for the business unit that produces the console. And PS4’s best-selling titles, like God of War and Spider-Man, both sold over 3 million units in just three days this year, far more than any Switch title over much longer periods of time.


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Comments (18)

18 responses to “Nintendo Switch Surpasses GameCube, But …”

  1. wright_is

    Erm, with 20 million sold until July and 3.19 in the current quarter, isn't that "over 23 million" sold?

  2. provision l-3

    After years and years or reporting on consoles I don't understand how Paul has not figured out that this is not a winner take all, zero sum game.

  3. fbman

    I dont think the switch was ever designed to compete with the XBox and Playstation

    The switch was designed with causal family gaming in mind, it was never suppose to a main stream gaming platform for hardcore gamers.

  4. orbsitron

    Instead of just comparing total number of console hardware sales (which I agree is _an_ important metric, but not the only important metric), I think it's critical to look at the full ecosystem. This applies when comparing PlayStation to XBOX as well.

    Number of subscribers to online services, attach rate, online engagement (as a proxy for secondary purchases like DLC or in-game purchases) all contribute to the overall business. Sure, Sony may be winning the hardware sales aspect of this generation, but how healthy is the overall business for each company? I suspect all three are doing phenomenally well this generation (the most recent Microsoft earnings report cited significant growth by the XBOX division as an example).

    Even on the hardware side, what are the margins of each company's product mix? Does the average Switch sale earn more _profit_ than the average PS4 sale (based on the mix of PS4 to PS4 pro and their respective margins)?

    Most tech sites only look at the hardware sales figures as those are the easiest numbers to come by (not that it's perfectly easy as not every player is equally transparent about units sold). That's not what's most important for the health of the business. Does selling fewer consoles necessarily mean that XBOX or Nintendo are losing?

  5. skane2600

    Yes, they are direct competitors. I should buy a PS4 so I can detach the portable unit from the PS4 console and take it to the park .. oh wait.

  6. ryzen5

    The switch is still a billion times better than the PS4. Being able to bring doom, skyrim, wolfinstein 2 and soon doom eternal anywhere I want is the best thing that's happen in gaming in a long time. The ps4 is a pretty boring system. I don't like having to buy a 400 dollar machine just to play a few crappy third person action games. The PC has a million more exclusive games, 3rd party games run and look much better than any game on the Ps4 , The PC can be cheaper and still better than the ps4 depending on the budget. The PC is objectively better. I don't understand why people buy the PS4 the only reason people would buy it is for a few generic 3rd person games. While the switch has really good exclusives nintendo actually helps work on unlike sony who just buys out devs, has portable versions of 3rd party games, And just a great unique system over much better than the PS4. I think eventually the ps4 sales will halt and lot of people will go with a switch/ PC combo. Even if the Ps4 does end up doing better than the switch at the end (which I don't think it will) History will be much more kinder to the switch and much more harsher to the PS4. Let me ask you sony fans something. If you took away those few exclusive games off the ps4 what would you have?

  7. Bats

    Analysts predicted that Nintendo will eventually be #2 and overtake Microsoft's Xbox One soon. I wonder if that has happened yet.

    I own a Nintendo Switch, but I don't play it. It's only for my nephew and niece, so they'll have something fun to do when they come over my house. I bought them a handful of games that they have asked for and thet all center around Nintendo characters and fun titles. They don't ask for games like Call of Duty or Arkham Asylum, just the cartoon ones that require a lot of jumping and running....LOL.

    Clearly the PS4 is the better platform. I, for one, was thinking of buying an Xbox One just to have it. However, I realize how bad the who customer support is, when I can't even switch my Xbox account to my "real" Microsoft account. My Xbox account started several years ago, with a vanity domain name email address , associated with it. With my current and most likely permanent Microsoft account ending with the domain, I wanted to change my Xbox address to it, for the sake of convenience and ease of use. However....I can't do it. I followed all the instructions by Microsoft on their website, as well from non-Microsoft websites, and simply unable to do so. I've used every trick in the book published by Microsoft and non-Microsoft sources. I've tried everything and contacting Microsoft tech support is just not responsive or helpful at all. doesn't look like I'll be buying any kind of Xbox any time soon.

    Microsoft must be looking at all this wonder, What exactly do we have to do to move the marker in favor of us? Let's face it, the Xbox One X has FAILED miserably...BIG TIME. I don't like to brag, but I predicted it. You just gotta put your self in the shoes of those 83 million PS4 users and ask, "Is it worth spending $500 for another gaming platform that offers very MINIMAL difference in terms of entertainment and gaming pleasure?" Clearly the answer is no. I looked at the differences between the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro and I saw very very little reason for any PS4 user to switch and I stated that here on this website then. I don't buy this "Xbox One users spend more time gaming than PS4 users." LOL....Microsoft is a master when it comes to spinning. Plus that's a useless statement. LOL...that's like proclaiming "moral victories" after very embarrassing losses. Games sales are very important, because of the developers.'s clearly obvious.

    • Davor Radman

      In reply to Bats:

      Dismissing something as "kiddy" and calling it inferior just because of it is in itself a sign of being childish, in a way, IMHO.

      You say that PS4 is CLEARLY better. For you, and probably for most, but not for all. I would take a light mario game over call of duty 100 out of 100 times.

  8. JacobTheDev

    I don't think it's fair to compare their numbers so directly, considering the Switch came out in March 2017 and the PS4 came out in November 2013.

    Extrapolating those numbers, the Switch has sold 1.15 million units per month since launch on average, and the PS4 has sold 1.48 million units per month since launch on average. That means PS4 is still doing better, but comparing similar time spans, the Switch has sold 22 million units, and the PS4 sold 28.12 million units, which paints a much closer race than is implied in this article.

    All those numbers are extrapolated based on the numbers provided here, and are of course oversimplified, as number of units sold per month can vary widely, but I still think it's worth pointing out that Sony doesn't have as huge of a lead as it would seem considering how recently the Switch was released.

  9. Daekar

    So... this may vary by person, but I don't feel that the Switch is actually competing with the PS4 at all. It's SO different, and its game library is SO different. At least in my mind, it was never a choice between an XBox, PS4, or Switch. It was a choice about the Switch alone, in a vacuum. The others were never considered a possible part of that equation because they are incapable of offering equivalent experiences.

    Does anybody else feel that way?

    • zybch

      In reply to Daekar:

      I dunno. The best (widest) range of games wold be with an xbox and switch. Remove the mobile shovelware and 2d 8-bit style platformers that make up 50% of switch titles, and you've got an almost mirror image of the PS4 title range.

      I'm hugely surprised at the low low attach rate, but with all that shovelware and an estore that STILL doesn't have categories its hardly surprising.

    • Jackwagon

      In reply to Daekar:

      Yeah, I feel that it's been the case since the Wii that Nintendo haven't been trying to directly compete with the twin ten-ton terrors of Sony and Microsoft. They've been doing their own thing to varying degrees of success (the Wii was an indisputable license to print money, though the Wii U didn't do quite as well), and this generation they seem to be playing to their strengths more than ever.

  10. Skolvikings

    Same arguments said in favor of the Xbox One can be used for the Switch. Who cares how many units are sold as long as the company making it finds it a profitable business and there are fun games to be played?

    • zybch

      In reply to Skolvikings:

      The attach rate is really low though. Just like the wii/wiiu. They have to improve that 2-3 games bought per system number. Unless they pull a MS and make money just by selling different colored controllers as seems to be the case with the joycons.

  11. BigB

    A console released in 2013 with an install base of well over 80 million sells more games than a console released in 2017 with an install base of under 25 million? Shocker. It's hardly comparing like for like, is it Paul.

    Also, I'm not sure how you work out that a PS4 and Switch complete. It's not either or. I have a Switch and an Xbox S (bought after my Switch) , and I use both frequently, but in different ways. Lots of people will own the Switch and a gaming PC/PS4/Xbox.

    Lets see how the figures look in a year or so, when both Smash and Metroid 4 have been released..