Switch dominates a great year for game consoles in 2018

A year ago, we highlighted NPD data to show that worries about the impending death of the console gaming industry were way overblown. One year later, NPD’s annual sales estimates for 2018 show the US console business is doing even better, thanks in large part to the continued success of the Nintendo Switch.

NPD reports that the Switch was the best-selling system in the US for 2018 in terms of both unit sales and total hardware revenue. That said, the system didn’t quite rise to the sales level the PS4 hit in 2015, its extremely strong second full year on store shelves.

Best-selling games for 2018

By US dollar sales, as reported by NPD.

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. *
  4. *
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. *
  8. ^
  9. *
  10. *
  11. *

* Digital sales not included.
^ PC digital sales not included

December in particular was a banner month for Nintendo’s portable/TV hybrid, though. You need to go back to the height of Nintendo Wii mania to find a month where any console made more hardware revenue (December 2009) or sold more units (December 2010) in the US.

The December sales success for the Switch seems to be driven largely by one particular piece of software: . The best-selling game of December in the US, also charted as the fifth best-selling game for the entire year, according to NPD, edging out the PS4-exclusive . This is despite the fact that has been on store shelves for less than a month and that NPD doesn’t track digital sales for Nintendo-published games.

Other recent Switch exclusives like and also made appearances on NPD’s best-seller lists for December and the entire year. But the better sign for Nintendo might be the continued sales success for older Switch titles like (No. 12 for 2018), (No. 15), and (No. 18).

By all indications, new Switch owners are playing catch-up with these exclusive system-sellers as they come into Nintendo’s hardware orbit. That probably explains why Nintendo was the best-selling US game publisher in 2018, the first time that has happened since 2009.

More than just the Switch

NPD’s annual sales summary wasn’t just good news for Nintendo. The PS4 and Xbox One also saw sales growth year over year, as did the “plug-and-play” devices sector (including the recently launched PlayStation Classic). Overall, spending on gaming hardware in the US grew 8 percent in 2018, on top of a 27-percent increase the year before, to reach the segment’s highest unit and revenue totals since 2009.

Throw in console software and accessories, as well as PC, mobile, DLC, and subscription spending on gaming, and the US game industry as a whole grew 18 percent in 2018 to more than $43 billion, according to ESA-cited numbers from NPD and Sensor Tower. “Console, PC, and mobile platforms all saw significant growth, while developing portions of the market like subscription and streaming services gave us a peek into a future full of possibilities for the industry and gamers,” NPD analyst Mat Piscatella said in a statement.

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Kyle Orland Kyle is the Senior Gaming Editor at Ars Technica, specializing in video game hardware and software. He has journalism and computer science degrees from University of Maryland. He is based in the Washington, DC area.
Email[email protected]//Twitter@KyleOrl

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