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Nintendo's Switch has sold more units than the Game Boy Advance, on track to beat the Wii

A Nintendo Switch with blue and yellow Joy-Con attached standing on a wooden table

Today, Nintendo released its earnings report for the final quarter of fiscal year 2021, which ended on March 31, though the report focuses on results for the entire year. As usual over the past couple of years, the company posted strong results, with net sales amounting to roughly ¥1.759 trillion ($16.1 billion) and operating profit of ¥640.534 billion ($5.86 billion). These numbers represent an increase of 34.4% and 81.8%, respectively, over fiscal year 2020.

As you might have expected, those numbers were mostly driven by its dedicated gaming hardware, the Nintendo Switch, which sold over 4.7 million units in the fourth quarter of the fiscal year - 3.55 million of the regular model and 1.17 Switch Lite sales - for a total of 28.83 million units sold within the year, the highest number yet for the system. With these sales, the Nintendo Switch has sold 84.59 million units in total, outselling the Game Boy Advance, whose official numbers put it at 81.51 million units sold. In fact, the Switch has now passed the official sales numbers of the Xbox 360, which sat at 84 million before Microsoft stopped reporting sales numbers.

Quarterly sales trends for Nintendo Switch from Q4 2020 to to Q4 2021

The Switch has consistently broken Nintendo's forecast throughout the year. It initially forecast 19 million unit sales, but the boost from COVID-19-related lockdowns caused the company to revise that number to 24 million in its half-year report in November 2020. That number was revised once again to 26.50 million in February, but it ended up smashing past that target as well.

Software sales were also very strong for Nintendo, with over 230 million units sold, during the fiscal year. The biggest contributor to those numbers was Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which sold 20.85 million units, followed by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe - a game released in 2017 - with 10.62 million units sold, Super Mario 3D All-Stars with just over 9 million units, and Ring Fit Adventure with 7.38 million units. In fact, the Switch had 36 titles that sold over one million units within the year, 22 of which were published by Nintendo, and 14 from third-parties. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe remains the best-selling title on the hybrid with 35.39 million lifetime sales, inching closer to the best-selling Mario Kart title ever, Mario Kart Wii, which sold 37.38 million units in its lifetime. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is in a close second place with 32.63 million units sold since its launch on March 20, 2020.

Table of titles published by Nintendo that sold over one million units in fiscal year 2021

Looking ahead to fiscal year 2022, which has already begun, Nintendo is forecasting a slight decline in its sales figures, projecting 25.5 million Switch units sold within the year. Considering the major boost it got from COVID-19 in the past year, the decline isn't all too surprising, but these figures are likely conservative, a tradition for Nintendo. A Nikkei report from the past weekend claimed Nintendo plans to manufacture 30 million Switch units this fiscal year, and according to Bloomberg, actual targets within the company are between 28 and 29 million.

Even then, based on the official projection, the Switch will have outsold the Wii, PlayStation 3, the original PlayStation, and be very close to the sales of the Game Boy and PlayStation 4. It's worth noting that a lot of those consoles also had significant hardware revisions to help boost sales, while the Nintendo Switch has only received a watered-down variant with the Switch Lite, and a very minor refresh with better battery life.

Reports have pointed to a hardware revision of the Nintendo Switch coming this calendar year, which would likely help maintaining that sales momentum. It's also been said that a strong lineup of games will be coming to help boost those sales, though not much is known right now. Titles planned for the rest of the year include Mario Golf: Speed Rush, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD, and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, but those titles are either based on existing games or lack the impact of titles like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. We may hear more about how Nintendo plans to hit those numbers at this year's E3, which is just over one month away.

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