Wii shortages expected through the holidays
Nintendo's hit console is pricier and harder to find than last season.
By Ben Silverman
Think you'll find a shiny, white gaming box under the Christmas tree this year? Think again. As many have feared, supplies of Nintendo Corp.'s highly-prized Wii console are not expected to meet the demands of holiday shoppers.
According to Nintendo of America VP of Marketing George Harrison, don't blame the company for not trying. "It takes about five months for us to increase the actual monthly rate of production," he said in an interview with industry website next-gen.biz. "We're at a rate now worldwide of about 1.8 million Wiis produced every month, and that's going to sustain itself until we get on top of this."
Nearly two million Wii's a month might sound like a lot, but that's a worldwide figure. Pooling together consumer demand from the three major territories -- North America, Europe and Japan -- far exceeds the number of available boxes.
This might sound like deja vu, as a similar supply problem last year made the system the Holy Grail of holiday gifts. Some have even accused Nintendo of purposefully shorting supply to perpetuate the prevailing sense that the console is still at the top of everyone's wish list.
It's a notion refuted by Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, who clarified his company's position in a recent interview with MSNBC. "Anyone who suggests that a shortage is good for business really doesn't understand business," he stated. "We want the consumer to walk into any retail establishment and find the product. And that's what we're working tirelessly to make happen."
The timing is tantamount. Recent months have seen the competition from Microsoft and Sony slowly carving back pieces of the pie, although the Wii again dominated charts with a strong October by moving 519,000 units compared to 366,000 for the Xbox 360 and a meager 121,000 for Sony's PS3, according to NPD Group. On the back of the highly-rated smash hit Super Mario Galaxy, interest in the Wii has not waned.
Neither have its exorbitant prices. Numerous online retailers report that finding a Wii at the suggested retail price of $249.99 is a near-impossibility. A quick scan of Amazon.com shows a current low price of $520, while the lowest ebay auctions move the unit at around $400.
Tips to Find a Holiday Wii
* Work the odds: Big retail chains like Best Buy tend to carry more stock than specialty outlets like Gamestop. It might be more crowded, but Wal-Mart will almost certainly carry more Wiis than the tiny mom and pop on the corner.
* Wake up early and hit the street:Sacrifice some of your weekend sleep by slurping down some daybreak coffee and scanning the ad section of your Sunday paper. If a local retailer has any Wiis in stock, you'll find out here. Remember: the early bird catches the Wii.
* If you must shop online, stick with Craigslist and Ebay:Believe it or not, some people are already over the Wii -- take advantage of their disinterest by buying a used system. Auction sites can drive the prices pretty high, but at least you'll have a fair shot at scoring one.
* Try tracking!: Many online retail sites provide RSS feeds that will allow you to track down Wiis as they become available. Consider wiitracker.com or nowinstock.net if this sounds appealing.