Luckily, I was able to get in touch with Nintendo's Kyoto office a while ago, and they were able to supply me with some very interesting generational sales data. Hopefully, I'll be able to shed some light on the early performance of Nintendo consoles.
However, there is one caveat that needs mentioning. Nintendo informed me that there are two types of accounting when it comes to historical recording of their sales: consolidated, and non-consolidated. "Non-consolidated" sales recording refers to the recording of shipments from Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s domestic inventory in Kyoto, Japan to the inventories of their wholly-owned subsidiaries around the world.
As of March 2013, these subsidiaries consisted of:
Nintendo of America Inc. (U.S.A.)
Nintendo of Europe GmbH (Germany)
Nintendo of Canada Ltd. (Canada)
Nintendo France S.A.R.L. (France)
Nintendo Benelux B.V. (Netherlands)
Nintendo Ibérica, S.A. (Spain)
Nintendo Australia Pty. Ltd. (Australia)
Nintendo of Korea Co., Ltd. (Republic of Korea)
Nintendo said that these subsidiaries have inventories of Nintendo hardware and software. Normally, Nintendo's subsidiaries inform the corporate office about expected retailer hardware demand, and Nintendo quickly provides them with the inventory to complete a sales transaction.
However, until the Nintendo console is shipped to the retailer, Nintendo cannot register it as a "consolidated unit sale." Until then, Nintendo records it as a "non-consolidated unit sale."
Nintendo told me that the non-consolidated sales recording method was preferred initially because outside of Japan, NCL could instantly and precisely measure the exact amount of inventory leaving NCL's factories and allocated for sale across the world. Once the subsidiaries had full control over the product, it took a longer period of time for Nintendo Co., Ltd. to receive an exact amount of sales.
With the advent of the digital age, Nintendo now prefers "consolidated" sales recording. Consolidated sales recording refers to the recording of shipments from Nintendo Co., Ltd.'s various subsidiaries directly to retailers.
Nintendo now receives real-time shipment information direct to their corporate offices, so non-consolidated, while still tracked and relevant, isn't as preferred. If you go on Nintendo's website, you can see that Nintendo only provides us with a historical database of consolidated unit sales.
However, if you look closely, you can see that Nintendo doesn't disclose Consolidated unit sales prior to 1998; in addition, Nintendo lumps together Americas and Other (Europe / Australia / etc.) unit sales. Unfortunately, Nintendo only provides us with a murky and incomplete look at their sales history...but I was able to obtain a full spectrum of data.
Please note, this sales history mixes two sets of data: non-consolidated from 1982 through 2000, and consolidated from 2001 through 2013. This is due to the data I was able to collect...they won't disclose old consolidated data, presumably due to reliability issues.
This isn't much of a problem. The inventories of Nintendo subsidiaries are transient...products were meant to be sold and not stored for a period longer than the remaining fiscal year. So, non-consolidated and consolidated unit sales are very closely related. However, they do not match up exactly. For example, near the end of console lifecycles you have retailers canceling on Nintendo and leaving the subsidiaries with a surplus of stock that has to get shipped back to Kyoto. I've included on the bottom of each spreadsheet a comparison of Nintendo's "sold to retailers" total estimate, and the aggregate from the "consolidated + non-consolidated" sales blend.
Regardless, the primary purpose of this topic is to elucidate some of Nintendo's very early console shipments. Without further ado, enjoy the numbers:
She's mentioned before that she's an investor, though never to what extent.
As an investor she is privy to data. No, I made that up.
As a public company Nintendo has to release certain information but I'm not sure if this sort of sales data would fall under that requirement. Otherwise I'm sure someone else would have made it available.
Alternatively, Aquamarine is finally Iwata.
Considering that we don't actually know definite, proven numbers for most Sega consoles for most years, if anyone ever could manage to find such a thing it'd be really, really fantastic... but it's needed! I mean, it's hard to compare those SNES numbers to the Genesis when we don't really know exactly how many systems the Genesis sold, for sure... there are some good guesses, but they're not as good as the real numbers like these would be.
This is awesome. I'd love to see if anyone has data for SEGA consoles. Any SEGA shareholders here? ;)
It's important to note, though, that the last new NES game in Japan released in late 1994. All system sales after that were post-death, software-wise. In comparison, the N64 in Japan was supported until December '01, so pretty much during that period there.
NES in Japan outliving the N64 is insane.
The SNES did almost outlive the N64 in Japan, though, software-wise... the last new SNES game in Japan (first-party, too!) was in late '00 I believe.
Obviously I'm a Nintendo ninja!
How did you get in touch with Nintendo's Kyoto office on this subject?
I have total software sales reaching back to FY 8/83 as well. But that's a subject for another topic. ;-)
Any chance for game software? That would be insane data!
Internally, Nintendo sees GBC more like an extension of the original Game Boy than a brand new generation.
I assume they lumped gameboy, pocket, and GBC together, correct? Really surprised in retrospect it was on sale for so long without a major change/hardware refresh.
And yes, this is every SKU lumped together. The purpose is to show year-by-year comparisons between different console ecosystems.
the N64 wasn't that much different in popularity compared to the SNES. a lot of people think that the gap was much bigger but the only place that had a massive gap between them was japan. also, the competition was ahead instead of behind in that generation and was far more popular. the PS1 was, like the Wii, grabbing a whole new audience to get the advantage over the competition.
N64 didn't fall much at all from SNES in the Americas, huh.
I'd be interested to see this as well. As Nintendo's only real failed piece of hardware it would be interesting to see how the data compares to the Wii U. The Wii U's first year is certainly pretty damning when compared to most of the other launch years, and I imagine most of those numbers are in and around launch day so the trend line is probably even worse than that.
Where's the Virtual Boy?
Anyone know if Nintendo's seen an uptick in Wii U sales since Wind Waker? If we don't see some significant positive momentum going into the holidays (and after 3D World) then I think we're all safe in calling it done.
Any thoughts on why that could be - maybe the crappy US economy has led them to keep them around longer as a low-budget offering? It certainly wasn't always like this. It looks like they closed out the GBA, GameCube, and N64 at roughly the same time, and Japan kept sales of the NES / SNES alive for far longer than NoA did.
Dat pokemon bump
For those who are interested here's a graph summarising the data:
I'll try to get some more specific graphs up shortly.
Also, fun fact from the data: Nintendo has shipped a grand total of 657,590,000 consoles as of March this year. They passed the half a billion mark sometime in FY '09.
They generally play the same games. There were far too few GBA-exclusive or DSi-exclusive games to really call each one its own platform distinct from the previous one. As far as I'm concerned the Game Boy's first true hardware revision was the GBA.
Yes, and the DS and DSi too. It's quite annoying, because in both cases those systems are in no way the same console, but they do anyway. :(