Home / Gaming / The Switch is Nintendo’s fastest-selling console ever, but don’t assume it will continue to hold that title

The Switch is Nintendo’s fastest-selling console ever, but don’t assume it will continue to hold that title

According to Nintendo, the Switch’s sales on Friday and Saturday broke every record at Nintendo for the fastest, best-selling launch ever. Meanwhile, the new Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild set its own records for the bestselling title not included as a pack-in game, beating out even the legendary Super Mario 64.

This news, from a tweeted NYT interview with Reggie Fils-Aime, follows reports that had turned a bit less positive on the Switch after strong Day 1 coverage. Many users have complained about problems with the left Joy-Con controller. A teardown analysis has revealed that the antenna in the left Joy-Con sits right next to your palm when gaming, virtually ensuring lousy connectivity. Hackers have already figured out how to solder an antenna on to the device to improve signal strength and Nintendo claims to be investigating the issue.

Leaning too much on launch day figures as a sign of healthy demand is a mistake, as Ars Technica points out. The Wii U had an extremely healthy launch, with 400,000 units sold its first week in North America and 890,000 sold six weeks after launch. In Japan, the Wii U sold 636,000 units its first month. With numbers like these, you’d expect the console to light up the charts thereafter. Instead, the Wii U sold 23% of the units it would ever sell in its first quarter.

The Switch’s tough slog

Thus far, the Switch has hit every forecast we made about its performance. It’s faster than the Wii U in an equivalent 720p mode while drawing about 1/3 the power, which is in-line with estimated performance and power consumption improvements. Its docked configuration isn’t always as smooth as its undocked performance — stepping up Zelda to 900p when docked hits performance compared with the 720p the console uses when in handheld mode.

It’s not at all clear the anemic lineup this year can sustain the kind of sales figures Nintendo would like to see. Breath of the Wild is, by all accounts, an amazing game and one of the best Zelda titles ever. It’s also the only Switch game anyone is talking about.

If I had to guess, I’d bet Nintendo will begin to position the Switch as more of a handheld device as time passes and the Xbox Scorpio gets closer to launch. The Switch has no chance of matching Microsoft or Sony in graphics fidelity and it would be foolish to try. Nintendo can keep saying that the Switch isn’t a handheld replacement for the 3DS, but they’ve used that trick before, only to pivot once it became clear the new handheld would sell enough units to maintain its own business.

The Switch will never distinguish itself in the living room, but it has the opportunity to dominate the handheld market — at least once Nintendo gets a few more games in-channel and fixes that aquarium problem.

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