Seasonal Refrain: Waiting on a Wii

To keep up with customer demand, Nintendo has nearly doubled production of the Wii video game system, to 1.8 million a month from 1 million.
To keep up with customer demand, Nintendo has nearly doubled production of the Wii video game system, to 1.8 million a month from 1 million. (By Richard Drew -- Associated Press)
By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 1, 2007

Most years, Marbea Tammaro avoids falling into the holiday trap of shuttling from store to store trying to land the season's hot gift for her children.

But the Fairfax City resident wasn't expecting to learn that one of the hard-to-get items of 2006, the Nintendo Wii game console, is in short supply again. The system first hit the market last November, after all.

Since intensifying her search efforts after Thanksgiving, she's been to a half dozen stores or so. Still, no Wii.

"I don't want to spend all my time looking for this," she said. "I was hoping that I might have taken care of this by now."

The appeal of the Wii has surpassed its maker's most ambitious hopes, with Nintendo increasing its production rates three times this year to try to meet demand. There's no factory problem or component shortage, the company said; it's just a matter of people buying the things as soon as they hit the shelves.

"We have worked our absolute hardest to get production as high as possible," said Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing at Nintendo of America. Kaplan pointed out that the company has shipped 17.5 million units worldwide since April, an amount she termed "a lot."

While its rival console makers, Microsoft and Sony, fought over bragging rights for supremacy on the technological front, Nintendo played the game a different way, and so far it is winning this round of the console wars.

Whereas other game systems require that players know which buttons to mash, Wii users play the system's tennis, golf and boxing games by using intuitive hand motions similar to the ones they would use in real life.

Sales of the Wii recently surpassed those of Microsoft's Xbox 360 console, even though the Xbox has been on the market a year longer than the Wii. Sony's latest PlayStation -- the system some people camped out for a week to buy last year -- has been bringing up the rear in sales.

A couple of years ago, some industry analysts said Nintendo should get out of the console business and focus instead on designing games after its GameCube logged disappointing sales.

Then it made the Wii. Nintendo said it has increased production of the console from 1 million a month to 1.8 million. Analysts, along with some parents and video-game-store employees, said that isn't enough.

You can call the local game stores, but the $250 system will probably not be in stock. Some employees sound as if they are tired of repeatedly answering the same question.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company