Animal Crossing hits huge milestone as Nintendo Switch nears NES sales record

Nintendo has shared its financial results for the first quarter of its 2021 fiscal year, and it seems to be a bunch of good news for the company. Nintendo had a particularly strong quarter, with operating profit up a whopping 428% year-over-year, climbing from 27.4 billion Yen in the year-ago quarter to 144.7 billion Yen. Software and hardware sales are up as well, and it seems Nintendo has one thing in particular to thank for that: Animal Crossing.

According to Nintendo's financials [PDF], Animal Crossing: New Horizons managed sell 10.63 million units last quarter, bringing total cumulative sales since launch up to 22.40 million units. That's enough to make Animal Crossing: New Horizons the second best-selling Switch title in the console's history, which is an achievement that's made even more impressive by the fact that New Horizons has only been out since March.

That figure, however, represents the total number of "sell-in" copies, meaning it includes the copies Nintendo has shipped to retailers that haven't necessarily sold to customers yet. When it comes to total global sell-through, Nintendo estimates that Animal Crossing: New Horizons exceeded 20 million units by the end of June.

At this point, it looks like Animal Crossing: New Horizons is second only to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe in terms of best-selling Switch software, though with MK8D sitting at 26.74 million units sold, it probably won't be long until New Horizons surpasses it.

New Horizons' success contributed to a major boost to software sales during the quarter, with Nintendo saying that software sales grew 123% compared to the same quarter a year ago. Just as well, hardware sales saw a 166.6% increase over the year-ago quarter, with the Switch selling 5.68 million units during Q1. Of those hardware sales, 3.05 million were standard Switches, while 2.62 million were Switch Lites.

One has to wonder how the COVID-19 pandemic affected these numbers. On the one hand, the numerous stay at home orders we saw many governments issue at the beginning of the pandemic increased demand for video games – particularly the Switch and New Horizons – but on the other, that demand and the shutdown of non-essential businesses led to a severe shortage of hardware. Nintendo says that shortage situation has "almost recovered," but it does note that if the "impact of COVID-19 expands" again in the future, manufacturing may be affected again.

In any case, hardware sales from the last quarter were enough to put the Switch at 61.44 million sales lifetime, meaning it's quickly closing in on the NES, which sold a grand total of 61.91 million units. Once the Switch sells the 500,000 units it needs to surpass the NES, it'll be the second best-selling Nintendo home console of all time, behind only the Wii. It's possible that we'll one day see the Switch surpass the Wii in terms of lifetime sales, but it won't be easy because at 101.63 million units sold, the Wii was one of the most popular consoles ever released.