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PlayStation 5 rockets to fastest U.S. console launch ever (but Switch remains sales king)

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Apr 16, 2021, 10:09 PM EDT (Updated)

It may be scarce for anyone who wants one, but the PlayStation 5 still knows how to steal headlines. In its first five months on the market, Sony’s prized next-gen machine reportedly set a record as the fastest-selling new game console in U.S. history… even if it can’t quite topple the Nintendo Switch from a historic sales run of its own.

Market tracker NPD Group has just revealed a ton of fascinating gaming facts in analyst Mat Piscatella’s March update, with none bigger than the PS5’s history-breaking launch. Amid a record-breaking month that saw overall games spending surge 18 percent above last year’s (already record-setting) March sales run, the PS5 sold more U.S. units in its first five months than any other console ever has.

Overall, players spent a combined $5.6 billion worldwide on hardware, accessories, game software, and subscriptions in March — with $680 million of that going toward hardware, easily eclipsing all other same-month hardware totals, including the March 2008 all-time record (via VGC) of $552 million.

It’s one thing to note the PS5’s hot start in the U.S., but it’s another thing entirely to recognize the Nintendo Switch for extending a sales record no other company is likely to break anytime soon. For the 28th month in a row, the Switch outsold all other consoles (including the PS5) to remain atop the best-selling heap of game consoles worldwide, Piscatella noted on Twitter.

While both Sony and Nintendo’s console records are impressive, they might not be all that surprising. After all, nothing suggests that the Switch’s popularity is waning, and the PS5 is an immensely sought-after console that’s still brand new. But one Piscatella tidbit that did catch our eye — majorly — was the sales success of the PS5 exclusive Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

No one’s likely to question that video games continue to enjoy an ascendance as the biggest sales leader in the realm of screen-based entertainment. For the past several years (and counting), they’ve lapped both the movie box office and the small screen in terms of revenue, and March’s $5.6 billion record only stretches that lead — especially at a time when the box office is only tentatively beginning to find its post-pandemic legs.

That diversity extends into NPD's individual console best-seller lists for both Xbox and PlayStation, though it’s worth pointing out that Nintendo is the listed publisher for all but one of the Switch’s top-selling March games. Then again, it’s also worth pointing out that Nintendo shows up a remarkable eight times on the cross-platform best-seller list above, by far more than 2nd-place Activision-Blizzard, which has three games on the same top-20 list. If anything, it’s a sign that Nintendo may do a lot of its biggest work in-house… but that it’s definitely putting out the kind of games that fans are clamoring to play.

As the calendar flips from April to May, games sales are only likely to pick up even more. On the near horizon is a tidy handful of future fast-sellers, including the cross-platform NieR Replicant ver. 1.22474487139… (April 23), PS5’s Returnal (April 30), the Switch’s New Pokémon Snap (April 30), and a pair of cross-platform biggies that’ll dominate the new-game news in May. Resident Evil Village releases on May 7, followed a week later by the hugely-anticipated arrival of the remastered Mass Effect: Legendary Edition.