Pokémon Sword and Shield beat Smash Ultimate for best Switch launch

Pokemon Sword and Shield best Switch launch Smash Ultimate

The eighth generation is here! Game Freak launched Pokémon Sword and Shield last Friday, and despite all of the controversies, they’re selling like hotcakes. We previously reported that they set records for the strongest launch of any Switch game in the UK or Japan. Today we have an update from The Pokémon Company giving us an idea of their global performance. In short, it was a stellar launch. In their first week on the market, the twin games combined for over 6 million sales, beating out Smash Ultimate for the best Switch launch ever.

Smash Ultimate unseated as the best Switch launch

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate previously set the record for the best Switch launch with just over 5 million copies sold in its first week. Pokémon Sword and Shield just beat that by about one million, but they benefit from their dual nature and from launching to a larger install base. Any way you slice it, it was a successful launch. The games sold over 2 million copies in Japan alone, and another 2 million in the US. With Black Friday and the lucrative holiday season coming up, these games should continue to see strong sales through the end of the year.

Sword and Shield vs. past Pokémon launches

We can also draw comparisons to past Pokémon debuts. Sword and Shield‘s 6 million sales at launch are about double that of last year’s Let’s Go games. It also eclipses the 4 million units sold by X and Y at launch. Unfortunately, Sun and Moon‘s launch numbers aren’t as clear. The Pokémon Company has confirmed that this was the most lucrative launch ever for the series, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more copies were sold. As Niko Partners Senior Analyst Daniel Ahmad points out, it’s possible that these Switch titles sold less than Sun and Moon, but generated more profit thanks to the $60 price tag.

The 3DS games had the benefit of launching to a much larger install base. In Japan, for example, Switch has sold 10 million units. But Sun and Moon launched on 3DS at a time when it had sold around 24 million units in Japan already. As it stands, around 20% of Japanese Switch owners already have Sword and Shield. That’s more than enough to beat out Smash Ultimate for the best Switch launch, and it easily ranks among the best Pokémon launches of all time.

Update: Just in case there was any confusion, Nintendo has clarified two important issues. First, the 6 million number is copies sold through to customers, not just shipped. Second, the first “week” on the market only covers the weekend, so these are not seven-day sales figures.

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Ben Lamoreux
Nintendo Enthusiast's Managing Editor. I grew up on Super Nintendo and never stopped playing. Been writing video game news, opinions, reviews, and interviews professionally for over a decade. Favorite franchises include Zelda, Metroid, and Mother.