Sales data reveals Nintendo Switch cannot rely on first-party games

Chris Stead 9 May 2016 NEWS


We compare the top selling games across the Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One to see if first-party games sell consoles.

When you look at the current sales figures for the eighth generation of consoles – comprised of the Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – there’s a clear winner and a clear loser. With 40 million sales, nearly double that of the Xbox One and over triple that of the Wii U, it’s clear that the PlayStation 4 is winning the battle to lure consumer dollars. Buy why? And what lesson can the Nintendo Switch learn from the Wii U’s failure to connect with gamers?

There are many factors that can play a role in why a consumer opts for a particular console, but ultimately we’re here to play games, so the games available to a console matter. Take a look at the following data, pulled from global sales aggregators:

Wii U Xbox One PlayStation 4 Wii
Years on sale 4 3 3 6
Launch price 429 $599 $549 $399
Units sold 13 million 21 million 40 million 101 million
Number of first-party exclusives in top 20 best selling games 19 4 2 7
Number of third-party titles in top 20 best selling games 1 16 18 13
Total sales of third-party games in top 20 1 million 51.62 million 101 million 47.71 million

From this, we can see that the most successful console is the one least reliant on first-party games. By first-party, we are referring to exclusive titles made by the console manufacturer solely for its platforms. Of the 20 most purchased games on the PlayStation 4, only two were made by Sony. On Xbox One, it’s four by Microsoft. On the Wii U, it’s 19 by Nintendo.

Yes, 19 of the top 20!!

Despite the quality of Nintendo’s games – and in our opinion titles like Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze and Mario Kart 8 are as good as anything out there – it’s just not translating into console sales. It’s clear that consumers will not choose a console for its first-party exclusives unless they’re backed up by the full suite of multi-format blockbusters from third-party publishers.

It demands a rethink in strategy and investment for the company when it approaches the Nintendo Switch launch lineup, and the console’s release schedule of games. One argument is to pay for timed exclusivity on a major upcoming third-party game like Grand Theft Auto 6 or The Elder Scrolls 6 – much as Microsoft did with Rise of the Tomb Raider – but is that really achievable?

We’ll find out for sure when the launch lineup is revealed in full, adding to the only confirmed title, The Legend of Zelda (a Nintendo game).

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