Nintendo 3DS Soars, Sells 400,000 in First Week

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Nintendo’s 3DS portable flew off the shelves in late March, moving just shy of 400,000 units during its first week of U.S. sales, reports Nintendo. Couple with Nintendo’s other handhelds, and the company says it saw its best March ever (that’s “in U.S. history” ever) for portable hardware sales.

Factor in dueling DS games Pokemon White and Black, both launched in early March with sales of nearly 2.5 million copies combined, and Nintendo says it moved over 460,000 Nintendo DS family systems in March, all told.

“We had a great start to the Nintendo 3DS, and portables overall had their best March in history,” Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime told Bloomberg in a phone interview.

On the flipside, the 3DS sold 100,000 units less than the DS did during its launch month, though sales tracker NPD Group notes the DS (the original 2004 model) had a holiday (November) launch advantage, was $100 cheaper, and wasn’t fending off mobile alternatives like smartphones and tablets. That, and the 3DS’s higher price tag means it generated more launch revenue for Nintendo.

3DS software sales were comparably feeble, averaging just one game sold per handheld, perhaps due to critical backlash aimed at Nintendo’s weak launch lineup (mostly recycled games with a new 3D coat and a few overly simplistic new ones). That said, NPD reports more 3DS games “sold through retail this month than did DS software in November 2004.”

In console sales, the Wii moved over 290,000 units in March, though beat by Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with 433,000 units. Sony’s made a habit of declining to release PS3 unit sales, presumably because they don’t compare favorably with Microsoft’s or Nintendo’s. The company simply said the PlayStation brand “saw double digit growth across hardware and peripherals.”

Video game industry revenue overall declined in March, from $876 million to $735 million year-on-year, though NPD analyst Anita Frazier noted digital distribution growth would “likely result in net industry growth when we release our full measure of the first quarter consumer spend on games in June.”