Report: Record-breaking holiday for Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (NPD)

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is a major success for the Switch and proves Nintendo's hybrid platform has the install base it needs for the next holiday season.

Nintendo finished the year with phenomenal hardware and software sales for its Nintendo Switch. According to NPD Group's report on December's revenue in the game industry, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate finished the month as the best-selling game of December 2018, and the Nintendo Switch earned the largest December unit sales for one platform since December 2010.

NPD tracks physical retail sales and certain participating digital sales. In the latter’s case, Nintendo opts out of digital reporting, so all Nintendo data is based on physical sales alone.

Based on NPD’s report, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate led as December 2018's top game, followed by Red Dead Redemption 2. Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 clocked in at third, with Battlefield V and NBA 2K19 landing fourth and fifth place, respectively. In total, first-party Nintendo Switch games appeared seven times throughout the top 20 list, with Mario Kart 8 in sixth place, Super Mario Party in eighth, and Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! in ninth. The top-20 list also included the cross-platform titles FIFA 19 and Minecraft, which are both available on Nintendo Switch.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's success cannot be overstated as part of the Switch’s December 2018 lineup. Along with being the best-selling December 2018 title and the fifth best-selling game of the year, Ultimate's physical launch month dollar sales surpassed the series’ previous record holder, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, by more than 70 percent. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate also became the best-performing console exclusive during its launch month based on dollar sales, a record held for over half a decade by 2010’s Halo: Reach.

Nintendo didn’t just move software during December 2018. The Nintendo Switch also held the highest December month hardware dollar sales for a console since its 2009 ancestor, the Nintendo Wii. As far as unit sales go, the Nintendo Switch also earned the highest December unit sales for one platform since December 2010. This is despite the fact that video game hardware dollar sales dropped by eight percent overall between December 2017 and December 2018.

With major titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Battlefield V available for the holiday season, Nintendo held its own and dominated among competitors. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate alone assured December 2018 would end with plenty of new Switch users ready for 2019’s software lineup. For the record, this was part of Nintendo’s holiday plan from the start. In a Nov. 9, 2018 financial briefing Q&A session, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa stressed Nintendo had two goals for the holiday season: keep consumers engaged with the Switch and expand the system's userbase.

“Our primary approach to encouraging continued play is to release new software titles,” Furukawa said during the Q&A session. “We have a full lineup of games for this holiday season, including Super Mario Party, Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu!, Pokémon: Let's Go, Eevee!, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and we are actively working to maximize sales for each.”

That strategy appears to be a success, with all four of those games hitting December 2018’s top 20 list. It’s also a promising sign for this year’s holiday season. Now that 2019 is well underway, Nintendo Switch owners can look forward to such upcoming games as Fire Emblem: Three Houses, a new Animal Crossing title for Switch, and an upcoming core Pokémon title. Those are all strong offerings for a Switch install base already thrilled with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s launch, and releases sure to dominate come holiday season 2019.

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Ana Valens is a games journalist from Brooklyn, New York. Her coverage at GameDaily.biz specializes in player-developer relations, long-term business trends, and gender issues in the gaming industry. Alongside her frequent contributions to GameDaily, her work has appeared at the Daily Dot, Dot Esports, Waypoint, Rolling Stone's Glixel, and Fanbyte.