Super Smash Brothers for 3DS: Does it Stack Up?


This article is more technical than the other article on Source Gaming and deals with a lot of sales data and analysis. The article is also extremely long.  So I’ve included a summary of my analysis at the end of the article. If anything doesn’t make sense, please mention it in the comment or send me a question over Twitter.

Its already been a year since Super Smash Bros for the 3DS was released in the US. This game was the first in the series to be released on a handheld device. With a year under its belt, it is time to see how well this game has fared with the other Smash Brothers games. Today, I’m going to be comparing the sales of Super Smash Bros for 3DS and see if it been as successful as 64, Melee and Brawl?

Lifetime Sales

Below is a table for the lifetime sales of all of the Super Smash Bros games, excluding Super Smash Brothers for Wii U:

Lifetime sale for the Super Smash Brothers series (in millions)
Release Date (Japan) Sales
Super Smash Brothers 1/21/99 5.55
Super Smash Brothers Melee 11/21/2001 7.41
Super Smash Brothers Brawl 1/31/2008 12.77
Super Smash Brother for 3DS 9/13/2014 7.04*

*As of June 30, 2015

Although Super Smash Bros for 3DS has only been out for a year, it is already the third best selling Super Smash Brothers game and is on the heels of the second best selling game, Super Smash Brothers Melee. The 3DS game is only 5.73 million away from the best selling title in the series: Super Smash Brothers Brawl. The general trend with Super Smash Brothers titles is that each game does better than the previous. Based on this, it appears the 3DS version will follow suit. However, we should look at the trend of sales as well. With only about nine months worth of information, we’ll need to get a sense of where the title is going.

Sales Across the Series

To access the success of Super Smash Brothers for 3DS, we’ll need to compare it to other games in the series. Unfortunately, Nintendo’s earnings releases did not include sales for individual titles during the time of Super Smash Brothers Melee’s release. Nintendo’s 2001 Year-end financials statements state “With respect to NINTENDO GAMECUBE, the exclusive software title ‘Smash Brothers DX’ sold more than one million units both in the domestic market and in The Americas.” This statement tells us that, at the very least, Super Smash Bros Melee sold 1 million units from its release in late 2001 to March 31, 2002 (Nintendo’s fiscal year end).

However, we have sufficient data to compare the trends using Super Smash Brothers Brawl’s sales data. When looking at sales, you should consider the sales trend, not just the current level. Most games, especially those of prolific series, rely heavily on early sales. As a result, most of a game’s sales will come within the first few months. Is that the case with Smash Brothers Brawl? To some degree, yes; however, like most Nintendo title, the game tend to sell long after the its initial release. Super Smash Brothers Brawl sold 1.4 million on the first day of the game’s release, representing 11 percent of total sales. As of March 31, 2009, a little under a year after Super Smash Brothers Brawl’s US’s release, the game sold 8.43 million copies. This represents about 66 percent of the game’s lifetime sales. It sold another 1.04 million copies the next year, bringing total sales to 9.48 million sales in about two years. After the March 31, 2010 earning release, the game does not show up on the supplemental information, indicating the game sold below 1 million units every year thereafter. Nonetheless, the game went on to sell another 3.29 million units which represents about 26 percent of total sales.  It’s clear that although Super Smash Brothers Brawl sold a large volume during its initial release, it still sold extremely well thereafter. Most game will not exceed 3.29 million sales, but this was Super Smash Brother Brawl’s low point. Below is a table summarizing Brawl’s sales data.

Super Smash Brothers Brawl Fiscal Year Sales (in millions)
Date Period Percent of total Lifetime
Mar 31 2008 4.85 37.98% 4.85
Mar 31 2009 3.58 28.03% 8.43
Mar 31 2010 1.04 8.14% 9.48
April 1 2010 – Now 3.29 25.76% 12.77

Super Smash Brothers 3DS sales

So how does Super Smash Bros. for 3DS compare? The 3DS version sold 3.22 million as of October 29, 2014 according to Initial sales compares favorably to Super Smash Brothers Brawl which sold 4.85 million about two months after the Japanese release. But how does Super Smash Brothers for 3DS compare after a year? As of June 30, 2015, the 3DS version has sold about 7.04 million. However, this figure doesn’t encompass a full years. So, we’ll have to look at how the game has done over the last three quarters.

Super Smash Brothers for 3DS sales by quarter (in millions)
*Date Japan Overseas Total
Sept 30 2014 1.71 1.50 3.22
Dec 31 2014 0.71 2.27 2.97
Mar 31 2015 0.11 0.46 0.56
Jun 30 2015** ?? ?? 0.29
Life to Date (LTD)*** 2.53 4.23 7.04

*All dates are as of the financial report date; however, sale information may included data up until the briefing date (which is about a month later)

** Nintendo did not include the sales data in there June 30 2015 Earnings Summary. Total sales were calculated from subtracting total sales as of June 30, 2015 from sales as of March 31, 2015.  

*** Japan and Overseas sales only include data through March 31, 2015. Total sales of of June 30, 2015 total 6.76 million.

When you look at sales of the 3DS though June 30, 2015, it seems like sales for the 3DS version would be strong, similar to Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  Yet when comparing sales on a quarter by quarter basis, there is a significant decline. Sales declined 81 percent from December 31, 2014 to March 31 2015, and another 48 percent between March 31, 2015 to June 30, 2015. Sales may pick-up during the third quarter (Dec 31, 2015) as a result of the holiday season, but there is no guarantee the current trend will improve.

Unlike Super Smash Brothers Brawl, the 3DS version is more dependent on initial sales. The first quarter sales accounted for 46 percent of total sales as compared to 11 percent for Super Smash Brothers Brawl. This comparison be unfair as Super Smash Brothers Brawl has been out for about 8 years. However, when you consider the trend of the 3DS version sales, it appears that these percentages won’t be far off given a few more years on the market. Super Smash Brothers for 3DS fell significant after about a year after sales; conversely, Super Smash Brothers Brawl continued to sell well after its release in 2008 with sales only beginning to slow roughly two years after its release. If the trend continues, it is unlikely that Super Smash Brothers for 3DS will sell much more than Super Smash Brothers Melee.

Super Smash Brothers for Wii U

One thing to keep in mind is that unlike the previous Smash Brothers games, the 3DS version is not the only other game out there. Super Smash Brothers for Wii U was released about a month or so after the 3DS version. Because of this, sales are always going to be split between the two.  As of June 30, 2015, Super Smash Brothers for Wii U has sold 3.83 million. Including the Wii U version’s sales, the total sales of Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS would be 10.87 million. This would bring it above Super Smash Brothers Melee.  The issue is that we don’t know how much of those sales figures represent people who bought both versions.  This is not the focus of the article, but why it’s important is because sales of the 3DS won’t represent everyone who’s bought the current generation on Smash. As a result, the 3DS’s sales are expected to be lower when compared to the other games in the series. This, in part, may explain the current level of the 3DS’s sales, but it doesn’t explain the trend of sales. Regardless, this is something to keep in mind.

Explanation for the Sales

So why is there such a decline in sales for the 3DS version?  One may assume the sales of the 3DS are due to a difference in systems. The 3DS has sold 53 million units; however, the Wii has sold a staggering 102 million units. Essentially, Super Smash Brothers Brawl’s sales are inflated due to the sale of the Wii, and, thus, the 3DS sales are expected. Likewise, the trend may be the result of more consumers with Wii who would then, in turn, purchase Super Smash Brothers Brawl.  This is supported by the Wii’s total software sales of 908.07 million as compared to 3DS software sales of 233.58 million. Essentially, the level and trend of Super Smash Brothers Brawl would be higher due to the volume of Wiis purchased.

To compare, let’s look at attach rates for each game, which is calculated as game sales divided by total console sales. The attach rate for Super Smash Bros for 3DS is 13.27 percent the attach rate of Super Smash Brothers Brawl is 12.57 percent. Given this, it appears the 3DS version is actually doing slightly better than Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and that Super Smash Brothers Brawl sold more due to the higher sales of the Wii. While most would rely on attach rates to explain the difference in sales, this analysis is misleading. Software drives the sale of hardware. This is especially true for first party titles which have a greater burden of pushing hardware sales as compared to third party software. With strong selling systems like the Wii, there are multiple titles that are pushing the sales of the system. Basically, Super Smash Brothers Brawl has a lesser burden of pushing Wii sales as other games have done so. For example, Mario Kart Wii has an attach rate of 35.80 percent while Mario Kart 8 has an attach rate of 54.25 percent, yet Mario Kart Wii sold 30 million more than Mario Kart 8.  That means this ratio is expected to be lower for Wii games than it would be for 3DS games.  

A more applicable reason for the steep decline in 3DS sales is because the game does not lend itself well to what makes the Super Smash Brothers series successful: local multiplayer. The 3DS is not built to accommodate the type of game Super Smash Brothers is. By being on the 3DS, player have to have their own game and system. Compare this to home console game where the limiting factor is the number of controls, and it becomes clear the the 3DS greatly limits multiplayer. Also, because of the 3Ds’s limiting process power, local multiplayer matches can lag and even disconnect at times. Overall, the 3DS was not the most preferred system for Smash. Initial sales for Super Smash Brothers for 3DS may have been driven by hype as that title was released first and sales decline as a result of the aforementioned issues and the release of the Wii U version.  

Nevertheless, the sales of the 3DS version are still strong despite the concerns about the longevity of sales and level compared to other games. I think the 3DS version still worked-out for a few reasons. First, the game managed to sell in Japan. As of March 31, 2015, Japanese sales accounted for roughly 37 percent of total sales. This is a significant improvement from Super Smash Brothers Brawl, where, as of March 31, 2010, Japanese sales only 21 percent of total sales. This is due primarily due to the current market place in Japan. Console sales of Japan have declined while the market has moved to handheld games. In 2014, the 3DS was the best selling system and some of the best selling games in Japan were 3DS games. The late Satora Iwata, during an investors meeting, noted this change stating “One of the difficulties Nintendo is facing in terms of spreading the Nintendo 3DS is the difference of the mainstream products between Japan, where the handheld video games are the main products, and the U.S., where the home console video games are the main ones.” Nintendo conducted a survey, and half of Japanese respondents considered handheld gaming to be the most significantly appealing.

In many ways, the reason for making the 3DS version might have been a response to the movement of the market to handheld devices. However, looking at total sales, the difference between Japanese sales of Super Smash Brothers for 3DS and Super Smash Brother Brawl isn’t significant. Super Smash Brothers Brawl sold 2 million in Japan as of March 31, 2010 while Super Smash Bros for 3DS sold 2.53 million units as of March 31, 2015, a 530,000 increase. Although the time period for Super Smash Brothers Brawl’s sales is much larger, the poor sales trend for Super Smash Brother for 3DS indicates that this difference will remain relatively similar even over the next few years. So it begs the questions: was it worth it to make the 3DS version for only a 530,000 sales increase in Japan?

Super Smash Brothers Brawl sales by region (in millions)
Japan Overseas Total (period)
3/31/2008 1.61 3.24 4.85
3/31/2009 0.25 3.33 3.58
3/31/2010 0.14 0.90 1.04
TOTAL 2.00 7.47 9.47
Percent 21.12% 78.88% 100%

Another reason the 3DS version worked-out is due to weak sales of the Wii U; hence, the game would fair better on a system with far greater sales. Now, I did criticize attach rates earlier; however, they become far more important on weaker selling systems. This is because total sales are driven by fewer games than more successful systems. As mentioned above, Mario Kart 8 is responsable for a greater percentage of system sales as compared to Mario Kart Wii sales despite the vast difference in total sales. Super Smash Brothers for Wii U is suppose to push hardware sales, but the game alone can not make a major impact. Savvy consumers will buy systems for the lineup of games available. This is why console manufacturer focus on third party games to expand the library. If the library is already small, it makes it that much harder for a single game to push sales.  As a result, Super Smash Brothers for Wii U may have sold less as the library remains small. In a strange catch-22 the Wii U also suffers from Super Smash Brothers for 3DS as it gives consumers another reason not to purchase a Wii U further impacting total sales for the system.  

How Did Super Smash Brothers 3DS Compare?

So was it a good idea to make the 3DS version? As of now, the sales justify the decision, but we’ll have a better answer in a year or two. Comparing the sales of the 3DS version do highlight some weaknesses when compared to the other games in the series. The questions has more to do with opportunity cost. Super Smash Brothers games will generally sell well due to their high quality and brand recognition. Nevertheless, would it have been better to not have the 3DS game and only have the console version? To a degree, yes, as the Super Smash Brothers for Wii U could help improve the lagging sales of the Wii U. But would a stand alone Wii U version sold as well as the 3DS version has done so far. Probably not, as evident by Mario Kart 8’s sales of 5.43 million which compares unfavorably to Mario Kart 7’s sales of 11.92 million. Regardless, without knowing exactly how much time and resources went into to developing two games verse making a single game, it’s hard to say which was the better alternative. It is safe to say that 3DS sales have stalled and will likely see little improvement in the future. The only saving grace will be the holiday season, but I don’t expect a significant change in sales. Going forward, it would be in Nintendo’s best interest to not produce a second version on a handheld device. Super Smash Brothers Brawl fared far better. If sales of the next home console are better than the Wii U, Nintendo would be better off focusing their effort on the home console version rather than trying to make two games.

That’s all for now. As more data becomes available, I’ll talk more about the sale of Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and 3DS in relation to other games in the series. Until then, keep Smashing!!!


  • Super Smash Bros for 3DS is the third best selling game in the series at 7.04 million.
  • Initial sales compare favorably to Super Smash Brothers Brawl.
  • The sales trend appear unfavorable as sales declined 81 percent from December 31, 2014 to March 31 2015, and another 48 percent between March 31, 2015 to June 30, 2015.
  • Sales of Super Smash Bros for 3DS are expected to be lower given the existence of a Wii U version.
  • Super Smash Brothers for 3DS has done better in Japan with 37 percent of sales coming for Japan as opposed to 21 percent for Super Smash Brothers Brawl
  • The decline in sales may be due, in part, to the handheld gaming not being suited to the local multiplayer nature of the Super Smash Brothers series.
  • The 3DS version is justified given the weak sales of the Wii U and the Japanese market shift to handheld; however, a handheld version for a future release would not be optimal.

Bachelors in Accounting from the University of South Florida
Soon to be CPA candidate and perusing a bachelors in Finance
Work as a Bank Examiner
Knowledge of finance, economics, accounting and statistics
My name is actually just a combination of Smash Bros and Pikachu – the character I used in Smash 64.

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  1. As someone in a background of business, I can understand the points you made. If the development cost is the same to develop both versions or just a little higher, I don’t see why it wasn’t a smart move. If we combine the sales of the Wii U and 3DS version, Smash 4 sold nearly as much as Brawl in its first year. As you mentioned, more available systems that a game is featured on means more sales. Though, I do wonder if a Smash on Wii U only would’ve driven system sales, because apparently Super Mario Maker did that ( I also wonder how much Smash for 3DS and amiibo contributed to the sales of the New 3DS and the NFC reader.

    As a consumer, I’m glad the 3DS version exists. Sakurai even stated that the 3DS version was more of a personal experience… thus, local multiplayer was probably more of a random encounter of “hey, you’re playing Smash too?” than gathering a bunch of friends with the 3DS version (unless your circle of friends are all gamers, which sounds like it could be the case in Japan.) The main draws of the 3DS version, IMO, are the portability and Smash Run, both of which are pretty singular experiences. I’m personally not very social and I take my 3DS everywhere, so I’m grateful I can just randomly bust out some Smash whenever I’m waiting somewhere.

    Anyway, interesting article Smashchu, I hope the 3DS version’s sales have helped Nintendo.

  2. I’ve had enough of people inserting their personal tastes into this discussion, so an analysis like this is quite refreshing. Thanks!

    It will be interesting to look back on this if some variant of the NX hybrid theory turns out to be true. Perhaps that would make development costs less of an issue for a future handheld Smash.

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