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Nintendo – Horrible Planning Or Evil Genius?

Normally, I try to avoid the Christmas rush. Having spent a few years in retail, I know all too well how things can be hard to find. I’ve even seen a few parents trying to do all of their shopping a day or two before Christmas and boy, have I felt sad for those kids.

Historically I have also had a tendency to shop for gifts at the last moment, and I know most of you have too.

I’ve gotten a little better recently however. As some of you may know, I have a two year old son – and I also have a wife that loves to shop. The later means that most of the presents have been bought for our family long ago. The former means that I don’t have to worry about him asking for the super popular and impossible to find toys for a few years yet (for example, I’m assuming the Playskool Kota My Triceratops Dinosaur isn’t easy to find).

This year however, I find myself in a bit of a panic. My wife decided that we should get a Nintendo Wii as a family gift. Not only that, but the only gift she’s really asked me for, is a Wii Fit.

What Link? You have no Wii? Shamefully, I don’t. I actually sold mine last Christmas to a close friend who was in a panic to get one for his kids. Like many non gaming parents, he just assumed he could stroll into Wal-Mart and get one without any problems. Boy was he wrong.

I never felt the motivation to buy another one, as all I seemed to use it for was buying and playing virtual console games that I already own (sorry Wii fanboys).

So three hours after we decide to get one, I stroll into EB Games (gameStop in Canada essentially). Remarkably, they have three Wiis. The woman ahead of me buys one, I buy one, and as I leave the store I see another couple freaking out as they realize there is actually a Wii in stock.

That was three weeks ago. Since then I have seen a total of ten Wiis. This was today actually, as I strolled into a 24 Hour Wal-Mart early in the AM on an insider tip that they would have some Wii Fit games in stock. Turns out they received four overnight, and then sold them between three and four that morning – moments after they hit the shelf. Lame.

The Wii system itself has seen shortage since launch. In fact, this will be the third Christmas where they are selling for hundreds above the MSRP on eBay.

The 2006 shortage was understandable, as launch shortages are common, especially when that launch is in November. But why is there till a shortage of consoles almost three years later? Nintendo hasn’t led hardware sales since the SNES. Is that the problem? Did the company forget what it’s like to be the leader?

Microsoft and Sony lose money on each hardware sale, hoping to recoup those loses in software. The Wii on the other hand (according to the Financial Times) makes up to $49.00 per sale in North America.

Two years of producing a console that makes money should be enough time to straighten out any issues in production or logistics that keeps consoles off of shelves. I understand that demand can easily outstip what was anticipated at Christmas, but a Wii is in no way easy to find year round. Not impossible, but not easy. Locally at least, nine times out of ten, Wal-Mart and EB Games have none.

Even worse, the lack of supply the Wii Fit has seen since launch is borderline ludicrous. Do you know how many times I have physically seen a Wii Fit on a retailers shelf since the North American  launch in April/May? Once. Even then it was a unopened carton box on a stock pallet that probably never made it into a display case.

Once again, I have a two year old and a wife that loves to shop. Do you have any idea how many times I go to Wal-Mart during the run of a week? If not for that one fluke months ago, I’d almost think they never got a Canadian release.

I’ve seen all the articles and report on issues plaguing the production of both the systems and the game, but I don’t think that’s the major issue. Why?

Nintendo Is an evil genius.

The fact that I’m even writing this article shows much much extra attention they get due to these shortages. And perception? Well, no advertising budget could give Nintendo what they get by actually losing sales.

Parent: My son wants a video game system…

Store: What one? We have the XBOX and PS3 in stock, but are all sold out of the Nintendo Wii.

Parent: Sold out? Is that the best one?

Store: Well, as soon as we get them, they sell. We can’t keep them in stock, too many people want one.

What do you think that perception creates in non gamers, the very market that the Wii is trying to seduce?

The lack of availability of the Wii makes it instantly more appealing than the 360 or PS3.

Like my wife said today, “I probably wouldn’t even want a Wii Fit so bad if they were easy to find”.

Well played Nintendo, well played.

 


Side Note:

As a more traditionally gameSniped note, the selling prices of both the Wii and the Wii Fit are an excellent opportunity to make your own Christmas bonus. I avoid doing this myself at Christmas, as it makes me feel somewhat scroogish, but hey, we’re a capitalistic society for a reason.

The Wii Fit is selling for nearly double on eBay. $130.00 – $140.00 US seems to be the average for new copies. I’ve even seen local people trying to hawk a used Wii for $150.00. As Christmas gets closer, these prices are only going to get worse.

The Wii itself seems to be hitting $320.00 minimum, with $360.00 a more common price. The price varies a lot, as most auctions try to include a tons of junk accessories or games to boost the overall price. Used consoles seem to be around the original MSRP.

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