Some of the classics...
Image: Alex Redfield Photography

As any long-time Nintendo fan will know, the company's fortunes over the past 30 years have varied wildly. The trailblazing successes of the NES and SNES were tempered by the performance of the N64 and GameCube, while the Wii's incredible market penetration has been followed by the Wii U, one of the firm's least commercially popular consoles. Meanwhile in the portable arena Nintendo has enjoyed more consistent success, although its latest handheld - the 3DS - has seen its market share stolen by smartphones and tablets.

Niko Partners' video game analyst Daniel Ahmad has pulled together some numbers which relate to Nintendo's hardware sales in the Americas, and the stats give a solid indication of the kind of challenge the company faces with its next console, the NX.

The home console picture is perhaps a little surprising, with the N64 - which was a distant second to the Sony PlayStation - almost matching its predecessor in the Americas. However, what's more relevant is the drop-off from the Wii to the Wii U.

  • 34.00m - NES
  • 23.35m - SNES
  • 20.63m - N64
  • 12.93m - GCN
  • 48.64m - Wii
  • 6.29m - Wii U

With handhelds, the picture is somewhat similar. The Game Boy and Game Boy Advance ranges performed well, but the Nintendo DS really dominated with almost 60 million units sold in the Americas. However, the 3DS - which is seen as Nintendo's cashcow at the moment - isn't really in the same ballpark as its forerunner.

  • 44.06m -GB/C
  • 41.64m -GBA/SP
  • 59.93m -NDS Family
  • 20.11m -3DS Family

For Ahmad, the reason for this is simple - the 3DS has more competition than the DS ever did, and the "casual" players which flocked to the console for games like Brain Training and Nintendogs now get their fill from smart devices:

It started off well. But sales dropped considerably in the last few years. The demand for dedicated portables isn't there. Portable dedicated consoles have been replaced by mobile gaming at a core and casual level.

The NX is billed as a system which combines Nintendo's domestic and portable interests in a single platform, which - on face value, at least - could be viewed as a risk for the company as it is putting all of its eggs in one basket. However, given the apathetic response to the Wii U and the downturn in its portable fortunes, perhaps Nintendo's move is a wise one - and with around 10 million units apparently being manufactured in its first year, the company may be happy with an eventual global install base of around 50 million.

It's a far cry from the glory days of the Wii and DS, but as Ahmad points out, the market has changed significantly over the past decade - something Nintendo itself has acknowledged with its entry into smartphone gaming. Or perhaps the figures indicate that Nintendo could be due another "Wii" moment? Let us know your opinion by posting a comment below.