How big of a deal is 'Animal Crossing'? It had the biggest launch of any Nintendo Switch game, including 'Mario' and 'Zelda.'

‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’/Nintendo
  • The Nintendo Switch was the best-selling console in March, the big winner in a month when video-game hardware and software sales spiked as millions were forced indoors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Sales of video-game hardware, software, accessories, and game cards topped $US1.6 billion for March, according to The NPD Group’s monthly report – “the highest reported spend for a March month since the $US1.8 billion achieved in March 2008.”
  • Nintendo was the big winner: The Switch outsold the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and “Animal Crossing” topped the game-sales charts.
  • The game was such a hit, in fact, that it’s already breaking records: It’s enjoyed the biggest launch of any Nintendo Switch game, including major “Super Mario” and “Legend of Zelda” games.
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Nintendo’s Switch was already a major success before a worldwide pandemic forced people indoors, with over 50 million units sold.

But as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the US in March and millions of Americans – including millions of parents with young children – increasingly spent much of their time inside, demand for the Switch sharply increased.

The console “set a new all-time record for hardware unit sales in a March month,” in a month where hardware spending grew by 63% compared to the prior year to $US461 million, according to NPD Group analyst Mat Piscatella. The console outsold both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One.

Moreover, Nintendo also had the highest-selling game of the month: “Animal Crossing: New Horizons.”

“Animal Crossing” is available only on the Nintendo Switch, yet the game topped the sales charts in March, besting heavyweights like “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” that are available on multiple platforms. In its first six weeks, the game sold over 13 million copies.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons first 6 weeks salesNintendo

It instantly became the best-selling “Animal Crossing” game in the game’s 19-year franchise. Not only was “New Horizons” the best-selling game of March, it’s also the second-best-selling game of the year behind only “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, according to NPD.

In Nintendo financial results this week, the Japanese gaming powerhouse revealed that “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” broke records internally: It’s the fastest-selling game on the Nintendo Switch, besting even Nintendo heavyweight franchises like “Super Mario” and “The Legend of Zelda.”

In the first six weeks it was on sale, “New Horizons” exceeded the lifetime sales of every previous entry in the series.

And the game isn’t just a hit with kids and teens – one primary demographic playing the game is “in their 20s and 30s who have likely played past entries,” according to Nintendo. Another breakout demographic: female players, who occupy over 40% of sales. “Among this group,” Nintendo said, “many appear to have newly purchased a console in the Nintendo Switch family.”

Nintendo switchAP/Koji Sasahara

Simply put: For lots of “Animal Crossing” players, the game was a reason to buy a Switch – and likely the reason that the Switch has been such a hot commodity, to the point that it’s been sold out at most retailers for months now.

Up until March, you could walk into nearly any retail establishment and walk out with a Nintendo Switch. But as the coronavirus pandemic spread in the US, and retailers closed across the country starting in March, supplies of the Switch became just as scarce as toilet paper at the supermarket.

Though production has largely resumed, Nintendo is still playing catch-up from the pause in production, so there are no consoles available to buy at the moment. Nintendo Switch supply issues are expected to be resolved by June.

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