Nintendo, GameStop address Wii shortage

Publisher and retailer team for rain-check program that guarantees prepurchasers access to scarce console in January.

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The Nintendo Wii launched more than a year ago, and the system is still incredibly hard to find. This long after the system started shipping, people are still camping in front of stores as soon as they hear about new shipments.

Friday morning, Nintendo of America's president and CEO Reggie Fils-Aime held a telephone press conference to address the continuing shortage of the Wii.

Fils-Aime said Nintendo hadn't expected as much demand for the Wii as it is getting. Since the launch, he claimed, Nintendo has almost doubled its global production from 1 million to 1.8 million Wiis per month and tripled its workforce at Nintendo of America's North Bend, Washington, distribution center. The Nintendo president wouldn't say whether Nintendo would further increase its Wii production, but he denied any claims that Nintendo is stockpiling Wiis.

"There was no ability for us to stockpile systems in the summer for the holiday rush," Fils-Aime said. "Enough systems would make everyone, including me, much happier."

According to Fils-Aime, Wiis will be available next week at all major retailers. If past patterns are any indication, however, that "availability" will be limited to shoppers willing to camp out before stores open on Sunday or Monday morning.

While that seems to be the biggest hope for Christmas Wiis, Reggie also announced a rain-check program in conjunction with GamesStop to get more Wiis out to shoppers in January. Even if Wiis are out of stock, on December 20 and 21, consumers will be able to purchase them for January.

On those two days, if you put down the full retail price of the Wii at a GameStop, you'll receive a rain check guaranteeing you a Wii in January. The rain checks will be available only as long as supplies last, but Fils-Aime said GameStop has "many tens of thousands" of rain checks available across its 3,000-plus stores in the US.

"We went into the launch with very high expectations," Fils-Aime said. "What we didn't expect was to throw out the whole playbook and essentially create a whole new level of sell-through for this industry. You can't plan for that."

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