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Nintendo's Switch breaks launch records, but don't celebrate yet

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

Nintendo’s new Switch is the single most important product launch in the company’s history. So it should come as some relief that the console outsold the wildly successful Wii in its first two days on the market in North, Central and South America. Those are the best two-day sales numbers in Nintendo (NTDOY) history.

What’s more, the Switch’s big launch title, “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” broke the record for best-selling standalone game in the same period, beating out the groundbreaking “Super Mario 64.”

Nintendo’s stock price has certainly seen a slight uptick since the Switch went on sale March 3 — the stock closed at $27.65 on Tuesday compared to $26.04 on launch day — but the company shouldn’t celebrate quite yet. “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” is a fantastic game, which is surely driving sales, but its luster will wear off after a few months and gamers will begin clamoring for new titles.

The news of the Switch’s early success comes from Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé, who relayed the console’s performance to The New York Times’ Nick Wingfield.

‘The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’ is the only exceptional launch game for the Switch. But it’s incredibly exceptional.

As Wingfield points out, the Switch’s performance compared to the Wii in its first two days is notable, because the Wii launched during the busy holiday shopping season, while the Switch hit the market in March. What’s more, the Switch doesn’t exactly have a robust game library yet — there were just 10 titles available at launch.

The Switch’s early numbers out of Japan, though, were shy of the Wii’s. According to Bloomberg’s Yuji Nakamura, citing data from Famitsu, Nintendo sold 313,700 Switch systems compared to 371,900 Wii consoles.

So far, Nintendo’s big AAA games “Splatoon 2” and “Super Mario Odyssey” are scheduled for release this summer and fall, respectively. In between Nintendo is banking on gamers’ interest in rehashed versions of previously released titles, indie games and re-releases of classic NES and Super NES games to keep interest in the Switch riding high.

That seems like a tall order when you look at the kinds of titles headed to Sony’s (SNE) PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Xbox One in the same time period. What’s more, it’s still unclear if developers will release major titles like “Call of Duty” on the Switch alongside their PS4 and Xbox One versions.

For now, Nintendo can be proud that the Switch’s launch has been a success. Now, though, comes the hard part.

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Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.