Nintendo this morning announced that it has sold 4.5 million 3DS portable game consoles in the United States to date, a feat achieved in less than 12 months after its initial stateside debut on March 27, 2011.

Last October, the Nintendo 3DS had already surpassed first-year sales of the Nintendo DS, which the company points out is the best-selling video game system in US history with more than 51 million units sold.

In fact, Nintendo says it sold nearly twice as many units as Nintendo DS consoles in its first year (see graph below).

The company earlier announced that 4 million 3DS units had gone over the counter in the US in 2011, but all this doesn’t exactly mean Nintendo is in good shape.

In fact, the company recently recorded a massive 61 percent drop in quarterly operating profits, and was forced to lower its total sales forecasts for the 3DS handheld console from 16 million to 14 million units.

They’re also facing stiff competition from Sony and its PS Vita (our review).

For your information: Sony says it sold 1.2 million Vita units in just a few months, although this is worldwide sales and not US-only.

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime remains optimistic:

“Nintendo 3DS closes its first year with a lengthy list of accomplishments but we’re still just scratching the surface. With a massive lineup of first- and third-party games and more on the way, a budding library of entertainment options and an engaged and growing installed base, Nintendo 3DS has an incredibly bright future. We’re just getting started but this platform is built for the long haul.”

The 3DS console lets people play 3D games like Super Mario 3D Land (over 1.75 million copies sold to date) and Mario Kart 7 (over 1.45 million copies sold to date) without special eyewear, and also comes with support for Netflix, Nintendo Video and shooting 3D movies. Support for Hulu is also on its way.

As for the title: in July 2011, entertainment juggernaut EA said that 3D gaming was unequivocally a flop. Judging by Nintendo’s respectable 3DS unit sales numbers, that statement may prove to have been premature, though it’s still early days.

nin 3D gaming not a flop then? In its first year in the US, Nintendo sells 4.5 million 3DS units