It's been more than seven months since Nintendo launched the Wii, but the consoles are selling so well that supply still hasn't caught up with demand. You can get one, sure, but be prepared to call around and arrive promptly when the shipments do.
"I had to get permission from work," said Regina Iannuzzi, 23, in line since 6:20 a.m. on a recent morning. She'd been looking for a Wii, a 25th birthday present for her brother, for two weeks. Every place was sold out.
Like sleeping in? Wiis also are available online, but at a hefty premium to the console's $250 retail price. A slightly used one from an Amazon.com seller called Hard-To-Find-Stuff recently listed for $595 plus $3.99 shipping. Another cost $398 from a different seller.
"The PlayStation 1 was certainly a big introduction, but I don't recall any game system more than six months after its launch still having this kind of demand," said Chris Byrne, an independent toy analyst.
Back in April, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata acknowledged an "abnormal" Wii shortage. Since then, the company has increased production substantially to help meet worldwide demand, spokeswoman Perrin Kaplan said.
But Nintendo also has to manage its inventory, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.
"Unfortunately, you can't ask a contract manufacturer to make a million a month, then 5 million," he said.
Sony's PlayStation 3, which launched within days of the Wii last fall, is readily available in stores and online, but sales have been lagging behind the Wii. Cost could be one reason: the PS3 retails for up to $600.
More than 2.8 million Wii consoles have sold in the U.S. since the November debut, according to the NPD Group, a market research company. That's more than double the number of PS3 consoles sold. And Nintendo plans to sell 14 million worldwide in the current fiscal year, which ends in March.
Nintendo's selling point for the Wii has been that it's for everyone, not just hardcore gamers or young men with impeccable hand-eye coordination. Its intuitive motion-sensitive wireless controller lets players mimic movements for bowling, tennis or sword-fighting instead of pushing complex combinations of buttons.
Rein Auh, 30, never owned a console, but he decided to buy a Wii so he and his wife could have some fun and get some exercise. He spent $350 at the Nintendo store on a Wii and some extras. Walking out of the store, he looked back at the crowd of people still waiting.
"It's kind of crazy," he said. "I mean, it's been seven months."
When I was searching for a Wii I went into one local shop and the clerk said to me that he dreams of the day he sees a stack of Wii boxes as tall as he was. At six feet tall I think he might be waiting till 2008.
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