The 3DS Sales Numbers Show Where The Real Power In Gaming Lies

Hey, so, what do you think was the best-selling console last year? The PS4 or the Xbox One would seem to be an obvious choice; they both had record-breaking sales numbers and easily outpaced their predecessors in sales at launch. Except they weren’t. It goes to the Nintendo 3DS. In fact, the 3DS beat out every other console… and that’s an important reminder of where the real consumer power in gaming lies.

Nintendo’s sales forecast (link leads to PDF) was not exactly cheery for the Wii U, but it had the surprising nugget that the 3DS sold 11.5 million consoles worldwide last year. True, it had the whole year, while Microsoft and Sony had only a month and a half, but that’s still a stunning number.

Handheld consoles have always done better than their full-scale counterparts. Four of the top-ten best-selling game consoles of all time are portables, and the Nintendo DS and Game Boy have been beaten only by the PlayStation 2 for the top slot.

It’s not hard to see why. Buying a kid an iPhone is a terrible idea on multiple levels, but a 3DS (or even a 2DS) is dirt cheap, has piles of games, erases any arguments over who gets the TV, and lets kids play in a virtual sandbox that’s more restricted than the wider Internet. Your kids also probably won’t buy $1400 worth of Smurfberries off an eShop game. It’s also surprisingly hard to destroy for a piece of electronics gear; I’ve seen a 3DS get run over and still work.

And, oddly, the 3DS has flourished creatively even as Nintendo has struggled to make the Wii U work. Our own Nathan Birch called A Link Between Worlds one of the best Zelda games ever made. And he’s 100% right; once you get over the nostalgia wave, you realize you’re playing what’s simply a great game.

It’s true the 3DS has been a relative sales disappointment; the 3D gimmick never really worked and Nintendo in general has faced some pretty severe struggles. But it’s telling that, as technology advances, the bestselling console is one that fits in your pocket.

Via Nintendo (link leads to PDF)