Once the election season (finally) ends next week, the US will turn its attention to a less contentious ritual: the annual mass acquisition of holiday gifts. For the past two years, one of the most coveted items on people's Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa shopping lists has been the Nintendo Wii. Nearly impossible to find in the days after its November 19, 2006, launch, the family-friendly console was also in scant supply last year. The shortage led to rumors that Nintendo was deliberately redirecting Wii shipments to territories with currencies stronger than the sagging US dollar.
Now, on the cusp of the 2008 consumer season's climax, Nintendo is assuring its American customers that the Wii will be in ample supply this year. "We're now producing 2.4 million units a month worldwide," Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told the Los Angeles Times. "Last year, we made 1.6 million a month. So we've made a 33 percent increase."
The outspoken executive put that figure in perspective by making a dig at Sony's PlayStation 3. "One of our competitors projects they will sell 10 million consoles worldwide this year. For us, that's three months of production," bragged Fils-Aime. "We're producing an unprecedented level of hardware to try to meet demand."
Fils-Aime also said that Nintendo was upping production of Wii Fit, its popular balance-board-based fitness game. "At this point, only about 3 in 10 stores will have Wii Fit in stock," he said. "We are dramatically increasing shipments of Wii Fit. We've sold somewhere around 3 million units. The demand has been so brisk that it has been difficult to catch up. The other challenge is that we're seeing demand from a whole new market. Of the people who stood in line in New York, 60 percent were working women. This is a demo[graphic] that arguably has never bought a video game, and they're buying it for themselves."
The executive also offered some somewhat obvious advice on buying a Wii. "Look at retailer circulars. Go to their websites. We're flowing products into stores on a very regular basis. Once you see it on the shelf, you ought to buy it. While we're bringing 50 percent higher level of supply into the market this holiday, we don't know if the demand will be even higher than that."