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Nintendo sells 4.5 million 3DS units in first year, outpaces DS

Nintendo's 3DS got off to a rough start, but the device has done a good job of staging a comeback across the U.S.

The Nintendo 3DS is awfully popular, huh?
The Nintendo 3DS is awfully popular, huh? Nintendo

When the Nintendo 3DS launched last year, there was some concern that it wouldn't get off the ground. But according to new statistics from Nintendo, it did just that--and then some.

Nintendo revealed yesterday that it has sold 4.5 million Nintendo 3DS units in the U.S. since the device's launch last March. On the software side, more than 9 million games have been sold, helping the platform generate $1.2 billion in total sales.

To put that in perspective, Nintendo revealed that it sold 2.3 million Nintendo DS units during that device's first year on store shelves between 2004 and 2005. In addition, it sold 5 million software units and generated $540 million in sales.

That the 3DS is doing a better job than the DS at this point in its life cycle is telling. The Nintendo DS family of devices became hugely popular, selling more than 151 million units as of the end of 2011. The Nintendo Game Boy family, on the other hand, sold about 119 million units worldwide over its life span.

If the 3DS can keep up its strong sales and eventually match its predecessors, it would mark a significant reversal of fortune for the portable. Last year, during its last fiscal quarter, ended June 30, Nintendo revealed that it sold only 710,000 3DS units worldwide during the entire period. Just 110,000 of those units were sold in the U.S.

To stop the bleeding, Nintendo quickly cut the 3DS price from $249.99 to $169.99. Soon after, the company announced that sales were up 260 percent following the cut.

Though price cuts are helpful in improving unit sales, they can eat into bottom lines. Nintendo made that abundantly clear earlier this year when it announced that it lost about $625 million during the nine months ended December 31, 2011. A key reason for the loss, the company said, was the "significant" Nintendo 3DS price cut.

The 3DS will soon take a backseat to Nintendo's next product launch, the Wii U. That console, which is the follow-up to the current Wii, is expected to hit store shelves sometime later this year. It'll come with a 6.2-inch LCD-equipped controller and HD graphics--two features missing from the current Wii.