The 3DS Launch, In Delicious Detail

The launch of Nintendo’s 3DS is now complete in major markets. Starting with the Japanese launch, that already seems like quite a while ago, back on 26th February it then arrived in Europe on 25th March, North America on the 27th and finally Australia on the 31st.

We have heard a mix of opinions on how well the launch has gone for Nintendo relative to their other recent consoles. The launch period sales figures for the U.S., Japan, Europe, U.K. and Australia have been revealed for the 3DS so we can do a direct comparison against the original DS and the Wii.


Because of the timing of the launches and release of the sales data, across the different regions we are looking at slightly different amounts of time.  For the U.S, the data covers the first eight or nine days of sales which is the time from launch until the monthly NPD data is released.

With Japan’s sales data coming out weekly and Nintendo launching in the home territory on a Saturday, the numbers cover just the first two days of sales.  With the Friday release in Europe the numbers are for the first three days and finally, Australia saw a Thursday release so its numbers cover the first four days.

Despite an extensive search, there is one number we have been unable to find, the launch sales for the DS in Europe.  All we have been able to discover is that it sold around 500,000 in the first two weeks so that one data point is missing.

Without further ado here is the graph demonstrating the comparative launch performance of the three Nintendo consoles.

Yes, the U.S. numbers for the 3DS are actually reported as being “just shy of 400,000” but that is hard to show when we are trying to be empirical so as the U.S. figures for the Wii and DS were given only to the nearest 100,000 we have rounded up those for the 3DS.

The expectation going into this article was that there would be a clear global trend of whether the 3DS had received a warmer welcome than the original model of the DS, but as you can see that is not the case.  In both the U.S. and Japan the DS sold more than the 3DS, a situation which was reversed in the U.K. and Australia.

Given the market conditions that the 3DS has launched into and the absence on release day of the big Nintendo franchises its numbers are certainly comparatively respectable.  When the DS launched in 2004/2005 and the Wii in 2006 the video game market was still growing in volume and value towards its 2007/2008 peak, a growth that those two consoles would prove instrumental in driving.

Turning our focus to our local U.K. figures it is perhaps surprising that the 3DS outsold the other two consoles at launch as it was the most expensive of the three.  The original DS débuted at £99 and the Wii at £179.  Nintendo chose, perhaps as a reaction to the current weakness of many European economies, not to set a retail price and instead allow retailers to decide.

This meant that while the prices in other territories would have suggested a cost of around £229 for the 3DS, competition among retailers meant that few, if any, would have handed over as much money as that.  Personally I paid £187 in the end for my 3DS from an online retailer and that seemed to be a price point many retailers settled on.

The price picture changes slightly if we adjust the launch prices according to the inflation we have experienced here in the U.K.  The cost of the original DS rises from £99 to £115 and the Wii from £179 to £202.  So the deep discounting by retailers on the 3DS’ price means that in real terms many will have found it cheaper than the Wii was at launch.  (Of course current Wii bundles can be found for £100 now, the same price as a DSi.)

On the face of it the 3DS looks to have enjoyed quite a strong launch around the world, perhaps not as strong as we and Nintendo were led to believe based on pre-order levels, but comparatively respectable.  While its sales have seemingly fallen away quite sharply in the subsequent weeks it will be interesting to see just how large an impact the release of titles like Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Star Fox 3D have on 3DS sales.

Should they fail to stimulate sales then it may become valid to ask questions of the 3DS, but that is not very likely.  Is it?



  1. Over 1.2 million sold in four territories, not the best but still a decent number.

  2. Selling very well and will no doubt continue to drive forward but does anyone know if it sold more thant he Ipad? I doubt it but those two were sort of compeating

  3. Hellooooo everyone! I’ve lurked this site since articles had little circle box icons and went down In columns! Like 2008 right? No matter, I remember I made an account ages ago so I’ll post this:

    I <3 TSA, and you are have been bookmarked on my computer/iPod since forever :D

    I'm always winding my mates up about ps3 vs 360, and this site gives me all the juicy info/figures I need to know- bit of a pointless post I know, but I appreciate all you peoples hard work, and I like reading your discussions/ articles:) keep it up, much love, Tom :D xx

    • Welcome, Tom.

      For me, the launch has been a touch weak but I don’t doubt it’ll still sell very well (when looking at absolute figures) but perhaps Nintendo will learn when they compare things in relation to previous consoles (DS, etc) and that they didn’t quite get it right this time around.

  4. I think it would have sold better if it looked different. People who aren’t ‘in the know’ might not have thought it was much different. It looks like just an updated DS. I think if they had changed it to look more unique then it would have sold more. Just a guess..

    • Definitely.
      Or even gave it an obvious name- ie, the DS 2 rather than something that sounds like a DS spin-off like the light or the DSi.

  5. It’s also very important to note that the 3DS launch was at a very quiet time of year–Feb/March as opposed to the end of year sales rush for the Wii launch worldwide, and for the US/Japan launches of the DS. With that in mind, and with the lack of a killer title such as Wii Sports or Twilight Princess, the sales figures certainly are respectable. All in all, a very good analysis.

    It’s perhaps telling Nintendo have chosen to launch in such a quiet time of year. I think they’re hoping to avoid stock shortages for as long as possible. After all, stock shortages that plagued the Wii meant that Nintendo lost out on large amounts of money; money that very may well have fallen into their competitors pockets. By launching in a quieter time of year, they’ve plenty of time to build up momentum before heading into what’s sure to be another crowded end of year sales period.

    • Two very good points. On the latter, the evidence from Japan suggests that Nintendo were carefully controlling the flow of stock into retailers to keep it just of the edge of selling out. At the same time ensuring that there was sufficient stock available that immediate online auction and ‘secondhand’ sales did not have cause to inflate the price.

      Makes you wonder how much of an unwelcome impact the apparently ‘over-stated’ pre-orders from retailers in the West scuppered any similar plans Nintendo had for our hemisphere.

  6. Expected higher sales if I’m honest but with the time of year and current financial situation etc its still sold very well.

    I’m interested to see how well the 3DS does over the coming weeks and months.

  7. Love these articles.

    I want a 3DS but they just seem an awful lot of money. It’s probably not helped by the fact that the current console generation is mid-way through its life, maybe more, so the prices don’t quite stack up. I’ll have one at some point though, definitely. Perhaps when Mario Kart rears its head. :)

    Great stuff as ever, Greg.

  8. No great, but very good. Very good indeed.

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