Prior to its launch, Amazon UK announced that the Nintendo 3DS was their most pre-ordered video game system ever. Nintendo of America announced that the number of pre-orders were double the number of pre-orders for the Wii.
The system launched in Japan on February 26, 2011, and sold its entire allotment of 400,000 Nintendo 3DS units during its release in amid reports of major queues outside retailers and pre-order sellouts. During that week 119,591 copies of Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask were sold, making it the best-selling Nintendo 3DS launch title in Japan, and the third best-selling title from any system in that week. On March 25, 2011, the system launched in Europe, selling 303,000 units during its first two days of its release. In the UK 113,000 3DS units were sold during its opening weekend, making it Nintendo's most successful hardware launch in the country to this day. On March 25, 2011 the Nintendo 3DS launched in North America. Nintendo announced that first day sales for the Nintendo 3DS in the US were the largest of any Nintendo handheld device in history. According to the NPD Group, Nintendo sold just under 500,000 Nintendo 3DS units during the month of March 2011 in the US, with 440,000 Nintendo 3DS units sold in its first week of release. As of March 31, 2011 the 3DS had sold 3.61 million units, short of the 4 million Nintendo projected. The Nintendo 3DS is also the fastest selling console in Australia, with 200,000 units sold through 37 weeks of availability.
Following the system's price cut of almost one third of its original price, sales saw an increase of more than 260 percent during the comparable 19-day time period in July. About 185,000 units were sold following a price cut on August 12. Nintendo sold more than 235,000 Nintendo 3DS systems in the United States in August, being the second best-selling dedicated game system for the month.
After approximately 8 months after its release, Nintendo of America announced that sales of the Nintendo 3DS had surpassed the original Nintendo DS in its first year, which was approximately 2.37 million units sold. During the 2011 holiday season, the Nintendo 3DS sold approximately 1.6 million units in Japan. By the end of 2011, Nintendo 3DS sales reached 4 million units sold in the United States. Overall, Nintendo sold 11.4 million Nintendo 3DS units worldwide, in 2011.
On September 30, 2013, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced that the Nintendo 3DS had sold more than 5 million units in Japan during the year of 2013. This mark was only surpassed by its predecessor, the Nintendo DS.
Following the launch of the Nintendo 2DS, Nintendo sold 452,000 units of the Nintendo 3DS family in the United States, during the month of October, double the previous month's sales. As such, it achieved its sixth consecutive month as the best-selling video game console in the US. Total Nintendo 3DS first-party software sales for the month hit more than 2 million units, the highest since December 2011. North American retailer Target reported that the Nintendo 3DS XL was among its top-sellers during the Black Friday. On November 29, 2013, Nintendo of France deputy general manager Philippe Lavoué announced that Nintendo 3DS life-to-date hardware sales stand at 2.15 million units in France, in which 30 percent account for Nintendo 2DS sales. It was also announced that the 3DS possesses a market share of 50 percent of all video game systems sold, and that Nintendo 3DS software sales rose from 850,000 to 1,700,000 year-over-year in the region. According to the NPD Group, Nintendo sold around 770,000 units of the Nintendo 3DS family in November in North America, pushing the lifetime to nearly 10.5 million units in the region. On December 19, 2013, MCV reported that lifetime Nintendo 3DS family sales in the United Kingdom had hit 2 million units.
The fourth quarter of 2014 saw the release of the New Nintendo 3DS in Japan and Australia. Although having upgraded hardware, a few exclusive titles, and being capable of running SNES Virtual Console games, it is not treated as a new generation of console. It is considered to be part of the 3DS family, and is therefore included in these sales figures.