In one month, the Nintendo Switch sold almost as much hardware as the Wii U did in its first year

Key Points
  • The Nintendo Switch console has sold 2.74 million hardware units worldwide since its launch.
  • Those sales figures are 20 percent of what the last console — the Wii U — has sold in 4½ years.
Attendees wait in line to play video games on Nintendo Switch game consoles during the new console's unveiling in Tokyo on Jan. 13, 2017.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Nintendo's back in the game.

The Nintendo Switch posted impressive out-of-the-gate sales, and could potentially outsell the life-to-date numbers of its predecessor within its first year. The Kyoto-based game giant, in announcing its fiscal 2016 earnings, said the Switch has sold 2.74 million hardware units worldwide since its launch. That's 20 percent of the lifetime sales of the Wii U.

Put another way: In one month, the Nintendo Switch sold almost as much hardware as the unsuccessful Wii U did in its first year, when it sold 3.06 million.

Software sales for the hybrid home/portable gaming console were just as strong. "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" sold 2.76 million copies worldwide for the Switch. The fact that the system's flagship game outsold the hardware itself could be an indicator of consumer anticipation or could be from devoted fans buying a limited edition collector's edition of the game to save and another to play. As is the case in many console launches, Nintendo was supply constrained at the Switch's launch. (The company sold another 1.08 million copies of "Breath of the Wild" for the Wii U as well.)

The strong launch for Switch is a relief for Nintendo, which has seen sales and its strength in the industry faltering since the Wii U launched in 2012. It's even more remarkable, given the timing of the launch. Typically console systems hit stores in November, to take advantage of the holiday sales rush. March is usually seen as a lower sales period in the video game industry.

By launching earlier in the year, though, Nintendo could be positioning itself for even stronger holiday sales. It's still a major challenge to find a Switch on store shelves today, even as the company ramps up production. And Nintendo is also strengthening the Switch's game lineup, with the recent re-release of "Mario Kart 8" (which was originally released for Wii U, but suffered because of that system's sales) and "Splatoon 2" and other anticipated titles coming in the next few months.

Nintendo said it expects sales to remain strong, forecasting it will sell another 10 million units over the next year.

Whether Switch will top the first year sales of the storied Nintendo Wii is still questionable. While Nintendo has called Switch "the fastest selling console" it has ever made, the Wii sold 5.84 million units in its first two quarters. (The company had greater supply of the system, due to its holiday launch period.) In its first year, the Wii sold 13.17 million units.

The strong sales of Switch helped the company post an operating profit of 178 billion yen ($1.6 billion) for the last quarter and sales of 750 billion yen ($6.7 billion) and an operating profit of 65 billion yen ($584 million) for the fiscal year.

Correction: This story was revised to correct that unit sales of the Wii U in its first year were greater than those of Nintendo Switch's in its first month.