If a report from the NPD Group is accurate, Nintendo is eating Sony and Microsoft’s lunch in the United States. The Switch was the #1 selling console in October, while the Nintendo SNES Classic is #2. Add in 3DS sales, and the Nintendo Empire supposedly accounted for a stunning 66 percent of video game hardware sold in the US in October. Nintendo cheekily notes that the US console hardware market broke one million units in October for the first time since 2011.
Super Mario Odyssey managed to take the #1 spot on NPD’s sale chart despite launching on October 27, while Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and Breath of the Wild took spots #10 and #11 respectively — not bad for games that have been out so long.
The big challenge for Nintendo will be maintaining this momentum in November and December. The PlayStation 4 doesn’t have a lot going for it this holiday season as far as major new launches — Sony launched both VR and the PS4 Pro last year and while the company is certain to do some promotional activity, it’s not the same as Nintendo with its wildly popular new console or Microsoft, with its Xbox One X.
What’s going to be particularly interesting to watch is how the two consoles shake out in November (adjusted for the fact that Microsoft only launched the Xbox One on the 7th). Initial sales figure for the Xbox One X look good, at least in some markets. Microsoft reports 80,000 sales in the UK, for example, matching the Switch’s debut.
In some ways, the Xbox One X versus the Nintendo Switch is a match-up worthy of the three-way split we saw back when the Xbox 360, Wii, and PlayStation 3 were new. While the overall quality of the Wii’s motion controls was debatable and a hell of a lot of shovelware got shipped for that platform, Sony and MS were both trying to sell gamers on a more-expensive future that required 720p and/or 1080p televisions and took advantage of high-end audio sound systems. Nintendo, in contrast, had the Wii: A diminutive console at a lower price, with unusual, easy-to-grasp motion controls, and that promised compatibility with the TV you owned already. Measured in terms of total hardware shipped, the Wii beat both its rivals, even if the games you could play on it never looked as good.
Now Nintendo and Microsoft will go head-to-head once more, pitting two completely different visions of gaming against each other. Microsoft is making a power play, emphasizing 4K visuals and cutting-edge technology in a $ 500 console. The Nintendo Switch can’t match an original Xbox One’s performance, but Nintendo doesn’t want to talk about that — it wants to talk about gaming-on-the-go, a mobile experience that transfers to the living room, and its own highly regarded first-party games. While you need to spend more than $ 300 to make the Switch work well, its base price is still $ 200 below MS, which does open up a pricing gap.
Last time around, Nintendo won the war. It’s certainly been raking the profits in this year. Will the Xbox One X finally shake off the Xbox One’s subpar performance and establish itself as more roadblock than door stop? We’ll know next year.