Nintendo has had a lot of ups and downs as a company, from its 20th century beginnings in the console market to its 2017 release, the Nintendo Switch (which some of you may have heard of). It doesn't seem that long ago that we were writing sad news pieces on the Wii U, or reminiscing over the 3DS now that Nintendo has stopped manufacturing the little guys.
Now, we can see the last 31 years of Nintendo's console sales in one big picture, thanks to Visual Capitalist (click here for the full resolution picture). It might not include sales of the eye-searing Virtual Boy, but it does cover a substantial number of Nintendo's plastic joys, from the Game Boy up until the present day.
2009 was a cracking year for Ninty, with both the DS and the Wii making record-breaking sales, and it looks like the Switch may, one day, reach their heights. With 154 million sales of the DS in its ten-year lifespan, and 101 million sales of the Wii, the Switch has a long way to go, but almost four years into its existence it's already sold over 68 million units, with a projected 45 million more in 2020 alone (thanks, Animal Crossing!).
Which year was your favourite one, as far as Nintendo's consoles go? We're partial to a bit of GameCube, ourselves. Discuss your preferred vintages in the comments below!
When you look at the Wii U/3DS combo the Switch success was very much required.
Give us all a great 2021 Ninty!
My life on an infographic. Well part of it anyway.
Still hurt by those wiiu and gcn numbers though.
Release Mario Kart 9 and the Breath of the Wild sequel next year and see Switch sales go through the roof. A Switch Pro wouldn't hurt either.
I love the DS and 3DS families most in terms of their portable consoles, and the Switch is my favorite of the home consoles, even if it is a hybrid.
Are they really forecasting 45 million units sold in 2020 alone?? That seems really, really high. I know it sold a lot due to the pandemic, but it was also sold out for a lot of the year, too.
I wonder where the mini classics would fit on here?
I did not know that the GC sold do bad. It was a neat thing.
I've played every single device on this chart. Hell, I've owned everything on this list and still own most of it.
We're closing on 4 years in and the Switch is still holding strong as my favorite gaming device of all time!
The simple brilliance of the hybrid design is just ideal. It's just that good.
I don't understand why the SNES has a smaller sliver than the N64.
Wii... It brought Monster Hunter to Nintendo.
The Snes is a hairline when it should be a blob too
@KimBread @1UP_MARIO This graph is by year. The start of this graph was 2000, 4 years after N64's release. If we moved the chart further left, it would ge a huge blob, but as this graph stands, it is showing the tail end of its life span.
zooms in for 5 minutes Oh there is the Wii U!
I'm always glad to see that the company that made my childhood is still alive and well thanks to the Wii U's successor's success. I think it's called the Switch.
I'm really sorry but...
My Top Nintendo machines
5. Wii U
Never owned and not interested
2. Gameboy and the Color
The reason i put 3DS at number 1 because from aesthetic aspect, 3DS machine and game box looks more beautiful than Switch. Switch game boxes looks bland with red spine and generic font, looks awful when being displayed like bookshelf.
@1UP_MARIO This graph starts in 1998, when the SNES was on the way out.
@Susurrus Ah, I should've paid more attention. I'm now more impressed by the SNES!
Its weird how stable the sales were until the Wii. Its a shame they can't go further back in history.
It’s sad that so few people bought a GameCube, it was my first console with a lot of my favorite games. That machine was basically my childhood. Hopefully more people will be able to play those games when Ninty brings them to Switch in 2021 (fingers crossed)!
Interesting, the Switch's peak is higher than the DS' and Wii's peaks.
The 3DS and Wii U blob is a lot smaller/thinner than I expected too. It's smaller than the combos before the DS and Wii.
And it's funny seeing all of these consoles lasting long enough to be with their successors for a little, but then the Wii U blob just almost immediately stopped the second the Switch came. Even the GameCube lasted a while before disappearing into thin air (if you look closely, the GameCube purple lasts until right before the Wii and DS' peak, meanwhile the GBA disappears a little after the peak of Wii/DS).
@Ryu_Niiyama yeah loved the Wii U and the 3D effect of the 3ds
I loved my gameboy. Amazing development was done on that machine
Gosh if it werent for the Switch, I would have convinced myself that I was
responsible for the demise of Nintendo. I didn't really pay attention to video game culture until I got a DSi for myself in 2009. Nintendo's then growing sales numbers would decline continuously for the next eight years, as I would buy every console that came out.
I don't understand it, like why are there 2 points needed for the Wii in 2009 (25.9M sold)? What's the bottom point represent, if the top point is 25.9M?
That is one ugly graph....
@Anti-Matter my top 5 would be:
5. 3DS (I group the DS in with this since it was backwards compatible)
Their handheld business is where the serious money’s always been at
The Switch is such a Beast. In hindsight, it was the perfect business move for Nintendo.
This chart visualizes how the handheld market has been Nintendo's saving grace for the past two decades. From what I can see here, the only home console that has even come close to handheld numbers was the Wii.
This is why the concept of a "TV only Switch Pro" just doesn't make sense for Nintendo. They have had a stranglehold on the handheld market for decades, and it's been their financial life blood (especially during the times of under performing home consoles).
It would be funny to see a version with the virtual boy included, I bet it would be like finding a needle in a haystack. It would also be cool to see an extended image going back to 1983 to see the complete sales.
@twztid13 both of the arrow pointers represent the 25.9 million. It's just the way they chose to visualise the ratio between handheld and console sales with the blobs.
According to the header, the visualization only covers 20 years of console sales, not 31. That would appear to be why there's no laughably small blip for VIrtual Boy and why SNES sales look so small compared to N64 despite selling nearly 17 million more units, overall.
I know the Switch is doing really well, but I'd really like a dual screen successor to the 3ds thats backwards compatible with 3ds and ds.
@Kabloop Thanks! The graph looks incomplete without the NES and full SNES data.
....The Virtual Boy should be on here just for the lulz.
I dont think it was the lack of portability which caused the Wii U to flop. I think it was more due poor branding and marketing, poor specs and unimaginative utilization of the gamepad.
@KimBread The two launched more than 20 years ago so the chart starts in the middle of the N64's run.
Edit: Whoops that's already been answered.
I was looking at this last week. It's the worst "graph" I have ever seen.
Okay Nintendo, you've had your success, now give us Mario Kart 9 for real this time!
This doesn't go back even close to 31 years. Lame without NES and SNES.
This is very cool chart. I would also be interested to see a visualization that showed Nintendo's market share over time. Of course, that chart would be far more interesting (and sobering, for Nintendo fans) if it went back to the halcyon Famicom / NES days when there was no other game in town (well, unless you were in Japan circa 1987 and enjoying them sweet, sweet PC Engine vibes).
@HotGoomba___Rebrand That's because they stopped producing the Wii U in early 2017. Normally, they continue selling the old console (and even making new games for it, occasionally) for a few years afterward (most recently with the 3DS).
GameCube is still my favorite Nintendo console, but Switch is an easy second.
@Heavyarms55 Does the SNES mini count? Because if it does I own 60% of them despite only being alive for five!
@theJGG I'd say it's more its own thing, but nothing wrong with that either way.
@Susurrus The graph is dumb for not just going back right to the NES imo. Also, it says it covers 20 years, but it covers quite a bit more than that.
SNES is still my favourite Nintendo console of all time (and my [hacked] SNES Classic Edition is also my favourite console of modern times too--although I do love me some VR as well).
GC is probably my least favourite Nintendo console. It was a very by the numbers me too system for Nintendo imo, and I honestly thought most of the sequels in popular Nintendo franchises that appeared on it were better in their SNES and/or N64 iterations. Although it has a few standout games, with Eternal Darkness being a particular highlight for me.
@Euler Oh no, I get why, but it's still interesting.
This graphic looks pretty but I can't make sense of how the blobs represent the numbers.
N64's numbers don't reflect that it was the greatest console ever. At least it was for me.
@Susurrus cool. Thanks
@Xiovanni I'd say the main reason the WiiU flopped was because there was no core vision behind it, unlike the Wii, the Switch, or the DS. They weren't quite ready to give up on the Wii but then they wanted to add a bunch of new stuff on top of that. If they had had a core vision, the other things you mentioned would have fallen into place. But it was a complicated mess.
For Sony/Microsoft, it is always pretty easy each generation.. just add more horsepower, more memory etc. But Nintendo tends to want to be novel.
That is one ugly graph.
And there is absolutely no chance the Switch is going to sell 45 million units in 2020.
I love data visualisations like this. Really interesting.
Very true, although any console generation would look weak compared to the Wii/DS eras 250 million consoles sold.
Not so sure, the Switch has been performing very well this year with the release of Animal crossing and the pandemic, plus the console has a lot of momentum and gets included in a lot of mainstream companies adverts. The mass markets awareness of a product is a huge factor in all of this.
Once again the holiday period will be key for Nintendo and as long as they have made the units available then they should have had a great result, forget the fact that to us on here their games releases have been a bit thin on the ground, as for all potential Switch owners there is a cool console with tonnes of great software for it.
Really cool graphic, I'm not sure why you wouldn't go a bit further back to fit in the SNES and NES years and then it would be a fairly complete history of Nintendo consoles. Either way though, its amazing to think of the success that the Wii and DS had combined. The fact that the Switch is even threatening to get close to that is a minor miracle.
From the data viz (it's not a graph), it appears that the Gameboy Advance was still selling okay (but on the way out) in '06ish despite the DS?
Love the way you can instantly see the huge numbers for the Wii and the DS.
Some of the ripples and bumps in the visualisation seem odd, but I guess that is just an asthetic thing.
As for statistics, it may be interesting to see these figures as a proportion of all consoles sold for that year (home and handheld separated out).
I’ve got them all and they all saw a good amount of love in their day. Whilst disappointing that more people didn’t get to enjoy the highlights from the GameCube and WiiU, it didn’t feel like we missed out on any games because of their poor sales. Played both Twilight Princess and BOTW on the OG systems and was pleased Nintendo did the right thing in continuing to release those as promised.
It's nice that Switch is such a big (and needed) succes for Nintendo. Ik own al lot of the consoles and portables from Nintendo. Nintendo is so to speak my first love.
The lack of first party AAA games (that I find appealing) is beginning to lower my interest in the Switch. A lot of third party games that come to the Switch are graphically of a (much) lower quality. So I ask myself, why not buy a Xbox of PS5?
Hope Nintendo improves the Switch significantly so there won't be a need to get a second console system (although I have set my mind on the PS5).
Grew up without tv, with Nintendo handhelds, until I bought a tv from my first job and a used Gamecube. In their own time, each of them was "my favourite", but in retrospect, I always love the GBA and Gamecube most. And obviously the GBA player as well. The GBA wasn't my first handheld, but the first one I got myself, and everything was awesome about it. Cartridges, cardboard boxes, manuals... And of course a fantastic library of games. Back then I loved the technically ambitious 3D games on it most (like Kill.Switch and Payback for example), and the visually impressive ones like Golden Sun. Now I appreciate the beautiful spritework of many other games more though, and the weird technical gimmicks like Boktai's cartridges with built in solar sensor.
The Gamecube is probably a thick layer of nostalgia, it being my first step in the world of home consoles with graphics like Resicent Evil Zero and such... But of course also the simply fantastic library of exclusives. I later got a PS2 as well, but never "fell in love" with it. Great games, still among the best for horror games, but the hardware lacked heart. So I stuck with Nintendo, and cheap used other systems later on with cheap used games. I got both a PSP and a Vita at launch, but always returned to my Nintendo handhelds way more. Not because of "brand loyalty", just because of that certain charm, in the games, unique simplicity in the menu's and functions,... When I boot up a Gamecube or a GBA, I feel "at ease" somehow.
It would be interesting to see a chart like this for software sales from each system. It seemed like there was a lot more software available back when it was 3DS and Wii U than now with only the Switch. It could just be that the Switch sells a lot of a few skus and the 3DS sold a lot of varying skus.
my top 5
4. 3DS/DS Family
5. Gameboy Family
I only like my statistics if it looks like something you wouldn't want your parents to find in your room
In 100 years time, the Wii U will be worth the most.
Data is beautiful
Switch sales are excellent, but it's not going to sell 45 million units in 2020.
26-28 million is a reasonable estimate.
@KimBread the graph starts late on the last days of the SNES... That still sold the same tiem as the Gamecube.
It dont even include the venerable NES
The Switch is such a beast. I feel like it won't be long before it surpasses the total Wii sales.
The GameCube was OK, had many nice games and Melee (which is prob the game i played the most in my life). But when you compare to what Sony and the PS2 had at the same time... You clearly understand the huge gap in sales was due to a far more engaging library Sony developed at that time
Yeah, graphic needs NES and more SNES info. Without the NES / Famicom this graph may not exist.
The Visualisation looks nice but is bad.
Also it is not the same to sell ~50 Million Super Nintendos back than and to sell a Console nowadays.
We have bigger Markets nowadays.
So to compare them pure is like to compare Dollars from 1912 to Dollars 2020.
I grew up playing NES and SNES. Technically the NES wasn't my first console, as an older family member gave me an Atari when I was two or three years old, but the NES was the first console that I really fell in love with and the SNES solidified it.
As I became a teenager in the nineties I learned of Nintendo's penchant for censorship, which turned me off, and I had wandering eyes which gained me an interest in Sega and stuff like the Atari Lynx and the Turbo Graphics 16 and Neo Geo (I wanted a Neo Geo so bad... unfortunately it cost $400 in, like, 1992 dollars). I even wanted that weird Phillips CD-I console (and I'm still fascinated with Burn Cycle).
Then in late 96 I got the Playstation and became a Playstation guy. I was always attracted to two different game genres the most: JRPGs and action games like beat em ups or hack and slash games, as long as they had at least some storylines (Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and the like in the NES/SNES days), and Xbox/PC gaming was all about FPS games and military themed stuff, and by the late nineties Nintendo was... well, how should I put this... it was a kiddie game company. Sony was more Japanese-oreiented with their lineup, which meant more narrative storytelling than Xbox fare, and Nintendo had a rep for childish games aimed at an audience of little kids. It would have been too much to go from Devil May Cry and Final Fantasy X back to Kirby and Mario.
Then I discovered the Switch, and despite the bad technical specs, I have to say that its great. I always loved portable/handheld gaming - the last console that I bought before my Switch was a PS Vita, and after really liking the Switch I bought a 3DS just to see what I missed and check out the stereoscopic 3D - and with the Switch, Nintendo has succeeded in bringing handheld gaming back to the forefront of gaming culture, as well as turning their own declining company around, both of which are amazing feats. They have also somewhat succeeded in throwing off their Disney-style kiddy games image, which is an even more impressive feat.
@Averagewriter it's not immediately clear, and others have answered this question when it was asked before, but the chart begins in 1998, so it includes the tail end of the SNES being on sale. That's why the sliver is so small, as it's only showing the sales as they were fading and not the total amount of units sold.
These colors and shapes are making me hungry. ^^
I've only recently heard about the GameCube sales being so low. This was my console. I had it, all my friends had it.
It was so weird to hear that is wasn't actually all that popular as it is in my childhood memories.
Now that's a great pie chart.
Would have been better without the biased text dumping on the 3DS for no reason.
Wow, I never realized that the N64 sold that poorly!
@KimBread I was confused at first too but then I saw that it was a time graph as well. It starts in '98 which by that time sales had already dropped down significantly for the SNES
@zbinks There should've been a Pokemon Mini dot.
I know it is probably more easy classified as "Pokemon toy" than "Nintendo console".
But I think it technically counts as the minimum definition of a portable console. Nintendo made it/sold it, it had buttons and a screen, it had games sold on cartridges (even if only like three of them were released in America). It was sold in the GBA's lifetime, despite having specs below the original Game Boy (maybe closer to a Texas Instruments calculator? ). And I'd say part of the reason it flopped was charging closer to the GBA prices than it should've been. Maybe if they cut the prices in half at least, they'd have had something attractive of a micro-console.
From the looks of it Switch is fast catching up on the Wii sales numbers in just 5 coming short years considering Wii came out in 2006. If it takes Wii that long for those numbers and Switch that short of a time that should say something.
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