The Nintendo Switch ended 2018 as the year’s best selling hardware platform both in unit sales and in dollars, according to an analysis of the latest ESA report from NPD’s video games industry analyst Mat Piscatella.
In 2018, the Nintendo Switch generated the highest hardware sales for December since the release of the Nintendo Wii almost a decade prior in 2009. The Switch platform also achieved the highest December unit sales for a single platform since December 2010. Both annual unit and dollar sales of the Nintendo Switch were the highest annual total for any platform since the PlayStation 4 in 2015, the report reads.
“Exceeded every expectation I had,” tweets Piscatella, speaking on the release of “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” which launched on the Nintendo Switch on Dec. 7 of last year. “[B]est-selling exclusive launch month in history. The story of Switch may just be getting started. ‘Smash’ pushed Switch to highest sales in the year, amazing performance.”
“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was the best selling game of December 2018, with physical software sales exceeding those of the previous sales heavyweight “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” by over 70 percent.
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But “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was only the fifth best selling game of 2018.
By contrast, “Red Dead Redemption 2” is the best selling game of 2018, according to the data provided by the ESA. “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4” is the second best selling game of 2018 and the third best selling game of December 2018. “NBA 2K19” is the third best selling game of last year, and 2018’s best selling sports title.
“Mario Kart 8” finished the year as the second best selling racing game of all time, behind “Mario Kart Wii” in lifetime sales. In sixth place is “Marvel’s Spider-Man,” the highest placement for a superhero game since “Spider-Man: The Movie 2” took fifth best selling game of 2004.
It is worth noting digital sales aren’t currently being tracked by The NPD Group.
“The race to the best-seller position in Software was very close,” Piscatella continues. “‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ digital sales on PC are not currently tracked by The NPD Group and made all the difference to the rankings.”
Likewise, there is no tracking of “Fortnite” in this report. However its impact is still visible, says Piscatella.
“But really, the real story of 2018 is ‘Fortnite’. Its impact across Hardware, Accessories and Game Cards cannot be overstated. And even though we don’t track ‘Fortnite’ software in this tracking, its impact on Software overall was absolutely massive and has changed the industry.”
Last year hardware spending saw an increase of 8% to $5.1 billion, driven primarily by sales of PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One which all experienced year-on-year gains.
Total spending on Accessories and Game Cards grew by 29 percent during that December month, reaching a record high of $1 billion. Annual spending here increased 33 percent to $4.5 billion, an all-time high driven primarily by sales of gamepads, headsets, and headphones.
“2019 could be a more bumpy year,” Piscatella concludes. “We’re closer to end of life than beginning with PS4 and Xbox One, so Switch becomes critical to the overall market this year, as we transition towards a new gen. 2018 was undeniably a great growth year overall, shouldn’t expect it to continue.”
Annual spending across game hardware, software, accessories and game games saw an increase In 2018 of 13% to $16.7 billion, compared to the previous year. This is the highest annual consumer spend total since the $17.4 billion generated in 2011.
Holiday sales of video game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards saw an increase of 2% to $3.4 billion in December 2018, compared to the previous year. This is the highest total consumer spend for a December month since 2015.
Annual sales of console, portable, and PC software reached $7.1 billion in 2018, rising by 7% compared to the year prior – the highest annual total for software spending since the $7.5 billion seen in 2012.