Wii sells out across Japan

Nintendo's new console flies off shelves as last-minute hopefuls scramble for raffle tickets for in-store drawings.

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TOKYO--While North America had its Nintendo Wii launch almost two weeks ago, Japan finally came in for its share of Wii madness this weekend. Some 400,000 units of the console were available on the console's December 2 launch day, with 600,000 more units slated to ship in Japan by the end of the year. However, given the large amount of interest in the console--which Nintendo has flogged with a TV-ad blitz for the past two months--demand is expected to be much higher than supply.

What's Japanese for
What's Japanese for "NERRRRRD!"?

Trying to preorder a Wii online was no simple feat for Japanese gamers. Amazon Japan made multiple preorders offers for the console, but they all sold out in a matter of minutes. Other online stores including Tsutaya, Toys "R" Us Online, and 7Dream (a division of 7-Eleven Japan) staged similarly short-lived preorders. Yodobashi Online was one of the rare major shops that took preorders without any prior announcement, but even there, units sold out within an hour.

Preordering a Wii offline also turned out to be difficult. Major electronic chain outlets including Bic Camera, Sofmap, and Laox secured enough Wii units to accept preorders last month, most of which sold out in a day. Still, savvy consumers could preorder a Wii as late as a week before its launch--if they knew where to look. Kojima electronics ran ads through newspapers and took preorders at locations nationwide last Saturday, sending many happy customers home with a reservation.

The lines went on...
The lines went on...

Last night, customers who missed out on a preorder crowded around most major electronic outlets in Tokyo. As reported earlier, the Shinjuku and Akihabara Yodobashi Camera had drawn over 1,000 people in line by 10 p.m. That's when employees handed out tickets to control the lines. By contrast, the Shinjuku Bic Camera had a line of over 400 people at midnight, and it continued to grow through to dawn.

To check out how the lines had developed during the last couple of hours leading up to launch, GameSpot once again made its way to the streets of Tokyo, this time starting out in Yurakucho, where Bic Camera's main branch is located. At 5 a.m., the store had a line of 1,200 people that snaked along the sidewalk for blocks. An employee at the end of the line assured customers that that there were still plenty of Wiis still available.

...and on...
...and on...

Once the morning trains started running, more and more people began to line up. By 5:40 a.m., store employees capped the line at around 1,500 people. Many of those waiting were obviously hardcore gamers, with many playing games on their DS Lite. One avid fan engaged in a bit of cosplay in a homemade Wii Remote costume made out of cardboard.

Back in Shinjuku, about 400 people lined up by 6:30 a.m. at the Sakuraya electronic store. At the store's east branch, one employee was already holding up a "sold out" sign as last-minute customers formed a long line that extended out toward the east exit of Shinjuku station.

...and on.
...and on.

The line at Shinjuku Bic Camera was around 400 people at midnight, but by 6:40 a.m. it had grown to nearly double the size. As was the cast at other stores, employees were holding up "sold out" signs before the store had even opened.

Between 700-800 people lined up at the Yodobashi Camera's main game branch in Shinjuku, about the same number that waited for the PS3 two weeks ago. Unlike other shops, Yodobashi was selling Wii games on a first-come, first-served basis, so eager customers showed up early so as not to miss out on their favorite titles. Unsurprisingly, the first person in line bought The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess together with his Wii.

Great success!
Great success!

As was the case with the PlayStation 3 launch, customers who tried to get in the Yodobashi Camera's line after 6 or 7 a.m. were turned away. But as a last resort, many could be spotted rushing off to the smaller Akihabara stores that were holding raffles to decide who got a Wii. At East Shinjuku Yodobashi Camera, a smaller branch with fewer units, over 350 customers were lined up at 7 a.m. hoping that lady luck would be on their side.

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