- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

NEW YORK

By 9 a.m., the line outside Manhattan’s Nintendo World store was snaking down the block. More than 100 people hoping to become Wii owners came from as far as New Jersey, as early as 6 a.m., with children and grandparents in tow, to get their hands on the gaming console best known for its wireless, motion-sensitive controller.

It has been more than seven months since Nintendo introduced the Wii, but the consoles are selling so well that supply still hasn’t caught up with demand. You can get one, sure, but be prepared to call around and arrive promptly when the shipments do.

“I had to get permission from work,” said Regina Iannuzzi, 23, in line since 6:20 on a recent morning. She had been looking for a Wii, a present for her brother’s 25th birthday, for two weeks. Every retailer was sold out.

Like sleeping in? Wiis are also available online, but at a hefty markup over the console’s $250 retail price. A slightly used one from an Amazon.com seller called “Hard-To-Find-Stuff” recently listed for $595 plus $3.99 shipping. Another cost $398 from a different seller.

“The PlayStation 1 was certainly a big introduction, but I don’t recall any game system more than six months after its launch still having this kind of demand,” said Chris Byrne, an independent toy analyst.

Back in April, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata acknowledged an “abnormal” Wii shortage. Since then, the company has increased production “substantially” to help meet worldwide demand, said spokeswoman Perrin Kaplan.

But Nintendo also has to manage its inventory, said Colin Sebastian, an analyst with Lazard Capital Markets.

“Unfortunately, you can’t ask a contract manufacturer to make a million a month, then 5 million,” he said.

Sony’s PlayStation 3, which debuted within days of the Wii last fall, is readily available in stores and online, but sales have been lagging behind the Wii. Cost could be one reason for this: The PS3 retails for up to $600.

More than 2.8 million Wii consoles have sold in the U.S. since their November debut, according to the NPD Group, a market research company.

That is more than double the number of PS3 consoles sold.

Nintendo plans to sell 14 million worldwide in the current fiscal year, which ends in March.

“You see it and you want it. Kind of like the IPhone,” said Robert Marcus, waiting to buy a Wii with his wife and three young sons.

Nintendo’s selling point for the Wii has been that it’s for everyone, not just hard-core gamers or young men with impeccable hand-eye coordination.

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