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In context: The popular Nintendo shooter franchise recently launched its third iteration, drawing immense hype and excitement from gamers, especially in Japan, where Splatoon 3 has managed to outsell (by a lot) previous chart leaders. Nintendo has not commented on sales figures in other regions so far however.
Splatoon has been widely regarded as one of Nintendo's most successful attempts at launching a new IP in recent years. The first Splatoon game was released during the later years of the Wii U's life cycle, a bold move as the Wii U notoriously flopped at launch and had less than ideal sales numbers. Despite those setbacks, Splatoon sold 4.95 million units worldwide, ranking it as the sixth most popular Wii U game.
Nintendo wanted to immediately capitalize on the unexpected success of Splatoon, announcing a sequel in January 2017, even before the Nintendo Switch had been released. Splatoon 2 was launched later that summer to immediate success, with Nintendo reporting 1.1 million worldwide sales in its first week, and current numbers sitting at around 13.3 million. Obviously, it did help that the sequel was launched on a console that outsold the Wii U in less than a year.
One country in particular has been the catalyst for those impressive sales figures. About 61% of the launch-week sales for Splatoon 2 came from Japan, as the franchise has been a major hit with gamers there.
Splatoon 2's 670,000 or so units sold in Japan during the first week are stunning indeed, however they pale in comparison to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which amassed over 1.88 million sales in just the first week, also in Japan.
Nintendo had a much longer "hype" period with Splatoon 3, announcing the game in February 2021, over a year and a half prior to release. As with any sequel, you would expect some anticipation to build from current and prospective players, but beating Animal Crossing figures was probably too tall an order, right?
Well, Splatoon 3 has been out for only three days and has already reached 3.45 million unit sales in Japan, nearly doubling that of Animal Crossing: New Horizons and now sits as the fastest selling video game for the Nintendo Switch. According to VGChartz, this may also be the biggest video game debut ever in Japan as the previous record was was set by Pokémon Black and White in 2010 (technically two games) which sold 2.64 million units in its first week.
It's safe to say that Nintendo has caught lightning in a bottle with the Splatoon franchise. Following numerous attempts to create a new game franchise, Splatoon has managed to stand on top against the likes of Xenoblade, ARMS, and many others. These sales figures could get very interesting as time progresses, especially with the holiday season just around the corner.