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Analysis: How Are the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U Doing in 2020?

nintendo 3ds in 2020

While the Switch has been Nintendo’s flagship games device for a little over three years, the 3DS has continued to play an important role as an affordable alternative, allowing the company to sell its software to the more cost-conscious consumer. That may no longer be the case in a few months.

In 2019, Nintendo sold 6.25 million units of 3DS software, with a significant chunk of that coming from 3DS owners picking up ever-popular hits like Pokémon, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Mario Kart 7. This even lesser-known games like Tomodachi Life (which has been a surprisingly consistent seller since its 2013 release). While the system represented a fraction of Nintendo’s overall software sales, the company indicated there was enough demand for its 3DS business to continue into 2020.

Halfway through 2020, the 3DS is still providing cost-conscious gamers with cheaper access to Nintendo’s games, but not nearly to the same extent as it was last year. Nintendo’s investor site indicates that the company sold 960,000 units of 3DS software during the first half of 2020—about 1% of Switch software sales during the same period.

Like last year, a lot of those sales came from the most popular Nintendo 3DS games. Here’s a look at how they sold between January and March of 2020, along with life-to-date sales for each:

Animal Crossing: New Leaf – 100,000 | 12.55 million
Pokemon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon – 70,000 | 8.77 million
Tomodachi Life – 40,000 | 6.59 million
Mario Kart 7 – 30,000 | 18.71 million
Super Mario 3D Land – 30,000 | 12.7 million
Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS – 20,000 | 9.59 million
New Super Mario Bros. 2 – 20,000 | 13.34 million
Pokémon X/Pokémon Y – 10,000 | 16.45 million
Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire – 10,000 | 14.27 million

Interestingly, these are the last-known updates we have for the aforementioned games. Nintendo hasn’t provided updated sales figures for them beyond March 2020, which could mean they’re not selling enough any more to be worth noting. (This is a strong indicator that this will be the 3DS’ last year on the market.) Regardless, here are some interesting observations from the data we do have:

  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf sold 110,000 units during the January – March quarter in 2019. During the same period in 2020, it sold 100,000 units—only 10,000 units less. It’s likely that Nintendo’s marketing efforts for Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Switch led to increased awareness of New Leaf as well, leading to a large number of people still buying the older game.
  • New Leaf can currently be bought for $20 on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. This makes it a cheap entry point for anyone that wants to try the series out, but isn’t willing to gamble a full $60 on the newer Switch game. It’s the perfect example of why the 3DS still exists.
  • Despite being one of the strangest, most obtuse games on the 3DS, Nintendo has sold 6.59 million units of Tomodachi Life to date. In due time, there’s an opportunity for the brand to find an audience on the Switch.
  • While Nintendo sold 960,000 units of 3DS software during the first half of 2020, it only sold 160,000 units of hardware. (Down 64% from the same time frame in 2019) That’s another strong indicator that this will be the device’s last year on the market.
  • In contrast to the 3DS’ stronger software sales, the company has only moved 200,000 units of Wii U software since September 2019. A lot of those sales came from Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Splatoon, Nintendo Land, and Mario Party 10, each of which have sold just 10,000 units apiece over the last several months.

While Nintendo ceased to manufacture Wii U consoles in 2017, ending the troubled platform’s run at just 13.56 million consoles sold, the 3DS sits at 75.87 million units sold worldwide and is still being produced. Given the drop in both hardware and software, though, it is likely this won’t be the case much longer. This would leave the Switch and Switch Lite as the only two Nintendo devices on the market after 2020.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.