3DS By The Numbers

March 7, 2011

As expected, the Nintendo 3DS had a hugely successful first week in Japan, selling over 375,000 units. That’s nearly as many systems as the PSP had sold so far this year, which is all the more impressive when you consider the enduring popularity of the PSP’s killer app Monster Hunter. The best-selling game for the 3DS was Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle at nearly 120,000 units, with Nintendogs and Cats on its tail at just over 64,000 units. Curiously, Street Fighter IV lags behind them both at 44,000 copies sold, barely edging out the latest Ridge Racer rehash and the 3DS debut of Konami’s Winning Eleven series.

I’m surprised that Street Fighter IV wasn’t a stronger performer… it’s my most anticipated 3DS game by a wide margin, and I expected the new social features to make it a smash hit in the land of the rising sun. Perhaps the Japanese have had their fill of the game on consoles. Maybe it just wasn’t the kind of experience they wanted on a portable. It’s anyone’s guess, but the fact that it was outsold by a Dynasty Warriors spin-off hurts.

I thought it would be fun to compare sales of the 3DS to previous Nintendo handhelds, but as it turns out, those figures are tough to find! After about an hour of searching, I wound up at the forum of the PVC Museum, which claims that 468,000 units of the first Nintendo DS were sold in Japan during its opening week. The DS Lite sold 68,000 units in its first week, while the DSi moved over 171,000 systems.

It’s a hard trend to follow, but from what I can gather, the sales seem to rise with substantial improvements to the hardware. The original Nintendo DS offered genuinely new features and a huge performance boost over the GameBoy Advance, and the launch sales reflect that. The DS Lite, on the other hand, made the system “sexier” while not actually making it better, and Japanese gamers just weren’t biting. The trend seems to hold for Nintendo’s American audience too… according to the Edge web site, DSi sales nearly doubled that of the DS Lite at 435,000 units sold.

You have to wonder what this means for the future. Will Nintendo follow Apple’s lead and release a new DS upgrade every year, with improvements that go well beyond the usual tweaks to the form factor? Only time will tell. Sony is releasing two handheld systems in the span of a year (the Xperia phone recently, and the NGP planned for the holiday season), so it’s not that far-fetched a scenario.



  1. Fighting games have never really had success on handhelds. Even with the option for Ad-hoc multiplayer, the more competitive folks just don’t embrace the format. It’s their loss.

    I loved playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 on the GBA. It cut out a number of things, but it actually added more characters to the game! The 3DS Street Fighter looks quite technically impressive, but it isn’t going to draw a competitive community.

    • I suppose that’s true enough, but if there was any handheld system that was made for fighting games, it would be the Neo-Geo Pocket. But if there was ANOTHER portable that was well suited to fighting games, it would be the 3DS.

      I haven’t seen the reviews for the game, and maybe it doesn’t work as well on that format as I expected, but my guess is that people had already played Street Fighter IV to death on home consoles and weren’t really interested in a third helping. At least it outsold Ridge Racer… by the slimmest of margins. 😛

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