News You Could Do Without

by Carlo Longino

Filed Under:
shortage, wii


Two And A Half Years Later, Wii Shortages Start To Let Up

from the still-no-wii-fit dept

The shortages that accompanied the launch of the Nintendo Wii weren't too surprising, since they seem to be par for the course for any new game console these days. What was a little surprising was just how long the shortages lasted after the Wii's late 2006 introduction. If you still haven't had a chance to find a Wii in-stock, your wait should soon be over, as an exec from the retailer GameStop says they "finally have enough inventory on the shelf" (via Engadget), and the shortage of Wiis should be letting up. Clearly the Wii has been a huge hit, but it would seem that Nintendo could have gotten a handle on its production output in less than, eh, two and a half years. There's also speculation that the weakness of the dollar was leading Nintendo to send Wiis to places like Europe with stronger currencies (and hence more profits when Nintendo converts foreign currencies back into yen). Or did Nintendo just leverage the scarcity so it would contribute to the Wii's appeal?

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Lucretious, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 12:57pm

    What is a "little surprising" is that people are still buying this thing despite the lack of decent games with any depth.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Sean, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:23pm


    Agreed. I know quite a few people who bought a Wii, but I don't know anyone who actually plays the thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    some old guy, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:25pm

    No Temporary Employment

    I read somewhere that nintendo was refusing to supply burst capacity because they refused to hire the extra people that they would need to lay off when the burst demand fell off.

    Or so someone said... That's probably wrong info.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Max, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:36pm

    Re: Re:

    I have a WII, there are about 2 games I felt had real depth to them. Zelda, of course, but also a game called Okami. It is a very interesting game where you affect the world with a paintbrush. it is worth trying out, and promises to only become more interesting as you go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Mike C., Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:38pm


    I've been playing computer and console games since the early 80's (Atari, Intellivision, Lode Runner for PC, etc). In my early retail days, I worked at a software and video game store. Nintendo ALWAYS had the reputation as being a primarily "family friendly" game system and I've never seen them stray from this.

    We have a Wii and 10 or so titles, 4-5 of which get regular play. The system has very broad appeal within our extended family, but limited appeal for my older son (11 y/o) except for Super Smash Brothers Brawl. For people interested in high-performance games (for example, most first-person shooters, many racing games, etc), the Wii is not the system to choose and likely never will be. If you are interested in something that even "mom & dad" with our "limited reaction times" can play, the Wii can be great.

    I think the trap here is thinking of the Wii as being the exact same console/platform as the XBox or PlayStation systems. It's not and never will be. While I believe it does compete with those other systems for entertainment dollars, I truly feel the intended audience is the whole family instead of just the gamers or families where only the gamers play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Chronno S. Trigger, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:41pm

    I don't know

    Using the February NPD numbers, The Wii is almost selling 2 to 1 against the 360 (Wii 753,000: 360 391,000 NA numbers). It's completely possible that the demand outweighed the max output of the Wii factory and they kept thinking that it had to drop off somewhere. Those numbers still surprise people to this day (hence Lucretious and Sean's posts).

    Now that Nintendo has all these Wiis outputting, what's going to happen when it douse finally drop off. They're going to have a lot more leftover than the 360 or the PS3.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    PaulT (profile), Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    I read an amusing article earlier about this. Well, the author didn't realise it was amusing, but he tried to claim that the fact that demand was finally being met now was a clear indication that the last 2 1/2 years' worth of shortages had been artificially manufactured. Not because, you know, it's now one of the biggest sellers of all time and most people who want one now have one... I never did understand that particular conspiracy theory, especially since I picked mine up not so long after launch by actually pre-ordering it and waiting for stock to be available for me to pick up.

    Anyway, I have had a lot of fun with my Wii. I've had it for just over 2 years now, and from Zelda and Metroid Prime 3 to the current Madworld there are a lot of fun games on it. Hell, one of the best times I've had in recent years was having a family game on Samba De Amigo after one too many Christmas drinks... I don't think I could even get half my family to pick up a 360 controller, let alone have a blast on CoD with me. It's for a different market to the "traditional" consoles, and there's a place for both.

    It would be nice if the shovelware stopped, but there's plenty of great games for it and 3rd parties are finally starting to show some imagination.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    BJ in the Pass, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:48pm

    Who plays the Wii?

    Sean may not know anyone who plays their Wii, and it may lack the types of games that hardcore gamers crave, but I can assume him that normal adults who wouldn't be caught dead on an XBOX or Playstation have flocked to the Wii, primarily because it offers games that the "regular" consoles don't. And that would be games that average people can play, and don't need an instruction book to figure out. They also get people off their butts and up on their feet. Total console sales show the Wii has a 20 MILLION unit lead on the XBOX 360.

    I have been a Wii owner for about 6 months, along with the Wii Fit. I use it EVERY day for exercising and tracking weight. You may not get a huge cardio burn from the exercises but you can improve your flexibility and coordination. My grandchildren can play the same things I play. They likely wouldn't be into XBOX or Playstation for many years to come. I have plenty of middle-aged (30's to 70's) adult friends who enjoy the Wii on a regular basis, as well.

    Lest you think I am a technophobe, I routinely build my own PCs, enjoy PC games (Crysis, etc.), but have never gotten into the limited control when using a game controller vs. a keyboard. I have no problem with the consoles and controllers, but I prefer the PC.

    Now, as far as the limited availability, that is a great question. The goal as a marketer is to sell as many of your product at the best possible price. With 50 million consoles world-wide, they may be missing a few sales, but it would be crazy not to call this a huge commercial success for Nintendo. No doubt, many are bought because they are hard to get, but you can also be sure many non-Wii consoles are gathering dust as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Lucretious, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Re: Re:

    I have all three current Gen systems. I bought the Wii and used for a grand total of around 2 weeks. It is gathering dust.

    The marketing towards casual gamers was a smart move but game systems succeed or fail on the backs of the hardcore players. Nintendo needs to encourage more adult oriented games if they want the thing to keep its momentum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Matija, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:52pm

    No shortages - at least in Slovenia

    The part about artificial shortages may actually be right. At least in Slovenia (Europe) there has never been any Wii shortages. On the contrary, the shelves were full of them for at least the last year and a half.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    JJ, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:55pm

    I read an article on this... the problem, supposedly, was quite simple: with parts coming from dozens of suppliers, it takes months to significantly scale production up or down.

    In the beginning, Nintendo intended to do what all game console developers do: produce some steady number of consoles per month, I think it was something like 6 million per month; there'd be a shortage at first, then it'd die down and they'd develop a big surplus which would get them through the next holiday season.

    The problem was, sales never dropped, so they didn't get the surplus... by the time they saw that they would be going into the holiday season with nothing in stock, it was too late to ramp up production in time.

    So they held production steady, certain that after the holiday season was over sales of the year-old console would drop. Yet once again, sales stayed steady. Finally, in the middle of last year they decided to ramp up production by several million units per months and keep it up until they could meet demand. They've finally hit it.

    So, in summary: They had _no idea_ how incredibly successful this thing was gonna be.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Bradley, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 1:57pm

    @Lucretious - I'd disagree. The fact that the Wii - and the DS - are by far the most popular gaming systems out there right now shows that those casual players are making Nintendo by far the best of the big three gaming companies right now.

    However, I disagree with some of the original content too. Just recently the UK price of the Wii went up something like 20 pounds do to weakness of the pound. The story is maybe a week or two old on Also, I worked at Walmart in an electronics deptartment up until October of last year, and our allotment of Wiis was based upon how many Wiis we sold, with an emphasis on how much accessories we sold with each Wii. The Walmart I worked at started 'bundling' the Wii with Wii-Play, an extra Nunchuck, and often even a casual controller, not so much because the customers wanted it (there was no savings from getting the bundle as opposed to buying it separately) but because the more we sold like that, the more we got in to sell. After the fall of 2007 or so we stopped having any Wii shortages for the most part.

    So, assuming that Nintendo used this same structure across other stores, places that didn't sell accessories would seem to have more of a shortage than others.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Mike C., Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    Re: I don't know

    Actually, I think in the long run, the fact that Nintendo did NOT build extra factories to meet the demand will help them out in the long run. My thought is that the money spent on additional factories would have been wasted once the "initial" demand was met and the numbers dropped off. I firmly believe they picked a maximum production number that would address enough of the demand to keep people interested, but was low enough to avoid building too many factories.

    Spend too much on building factories and they'll have to be closed sooner as demand drops off too quickly. Spend too little and demand will drop off because it's never available. I can't fault them for how they did it because to me, it's been a pretty successful product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    PaulT (profile), Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "The marketing towards casual gamers was a smart move but game systems succeed or fail on the backs of the hardcore players. Nintendo needs to encourage more adult oriented games if they want the thing to keep its momentum."

    Depends on how you look at it...

    Out of the "current gen" machines (it's debatable whether the Wii belongs in this group), Nintendo are the only ones making money off the console itself. Microsoft must be close, but the RROD debacle has cost them a lot of money. Whereas MS and Sony need to get people to buy as many games as possible, Nintendo are already in the black with each unit sold.

    Add to that the fact that many people buying the Wii are people who would never have considered buying a videogame console before, and the fact that many people are buying them solely to play things that wouldn't normally be considered "games" (Wii Fit comes to mind), and you simply have a different market to the one that existed last gen. The "hardcore market" may simply not be relevant with regard to the Wii.

    Having said that, there are a lot of "adult"-oriented games coming out now. In the last couple of months, we've has Bikini Zombie Slayers, Dead Rising, Madworld and House Of The Dead: Overkill. Now, there's a good case to be made that Madworld is the only truly decent game there, but there's definitely an attempt to target something other than the "kiddy" or family market.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    oosagi, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:05pm

    MY 2 cents

    I own both a Wii and a 360. There are just some games that are not near as fun to play on the 360 as they are on the Wii. The best examples that I have are Tiger Woods golf and bowling. These are two prime examples where palying on a controller vs. doing the actuall motion, the motion actually wins. These are also games that do not require a huge amount of graphic power to produce a nice looking game.

    Shooters and racing games (aside from Mario Cart..) are best left for the more graphically inclined systems.

    Will the Wii slow down in sales? Sure they all do, but I think I can say (in my opion) the Wii was and continues to be a huge success. We have a family bowling tournament every christmas... when my son and his great grandmother can bowl agaist each other (and niether was a slouch son is 4 and bowled a 191 his great grandma is 76 bowled a 180) that is a success. Period. That is what Nintendos system is about. Bridging the gameing gap.

    It may not substitute as the end all be all for gaming systems, but then....which one ever has? :)


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:16pm

    So I'm quite the gamer (I own ALL the systems and a hefty Alienware PC besides) so I'm in a gamestop not in-frequently. There has been no realistic shortage of wiis for at least a year and half that I'm aware of. (at least in the Boston area) It's possible gamestop might not have had "enough inventory" as in they would like to have had a little more padding, but as a consumer, if you wanted to buy one, it has been there, be it gamestop, Best Buy or somewhere like Wal-mart. So for the most part, this story looks largely artificial to me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    ehrichweiss, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:23pm


    Wow, can you use a wider brush stroke to paint that generalization?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Travis, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    @Chrono S. Trigger

    Off topic, but where are you from? I have seen you say douse a bunch of times instead of does.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    B, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Re: Re:

    Actually he's got a pretty good point. The Wii is just buried in shovelware and crappy (as in quality, not as in "I hate the genre") party games. Go read some of the articles on Kotaku about it... it's interesting stuff. (Link: Wii Shovelware search on Kotaku).

    There's something seriously off about a system that can move that many units and not appeal to 3rd party developers. But hey... what do I know? I'm just a gamer :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Ryan, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Are you serious?

    Out of the 3 recent consoles, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii, the Wii is by far the most 3rd party developer friendly. Can game writers simply upload their work on the (free) internet network and sell their games with the 360 or Playstation. I dont think so. I know that if I log on to my (still free, unlike xbox) Wii network, not only can I browse the web (try watching youTube on your TV) but I can purchase games made by small companies and private developers. I think thats pretty cool. But what do I know, Im not a gamer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    B, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Are you serious?

    Development for the "marketplace" type stuff is thriving on all three systems. Yeah, you pay for LIVE as well as the game for the 360, but the PSN is free for the PS3, and they have some killer apps in their marketplace as well.

    Maybe I wasn't quite clear. I was referring to full-game third party titles (as in the $49.99 titles, not the 5 dollar marketplace ones). As much as I'm spamming Kotaku here... read this article. It sums up my point nicely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 4:32pm

    Re: No shortages - at least in Slovenia

    There hasn't been a shortage on the Wii in the Toledo, OH area for at least a year, either. Can't go into a store that sells them and NOT see them on the shelves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re:

    I'm one of the, own-but-don't-play people. Sad. But the lack of quality games keep me playing my PS3 instead. Like others said, Zelda and Okami are good, but those are just ports from the GameCube and PS2... where are the good games Nintendo? If you're 5 and like to play the shovelware games that you get your mom to buy you based on the cover art, the Wii is for you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 5:37pm

    i think one reason for the constant shortage may be that nintendo has been constantly advertising the wii since it came out, and they keep coming up with different ways to sell it. the wii fit for instance. im not sure, but didnt that come out a time after the wii came out? that was another explosion of popularity for the wii and it got more people to not only buy the wii, but then buy the wii fit. my parents(now 61 and 65) bought a wii and a wii fit about a year ago. now they fall under the category of people who dont play it, but thats their nature, and they are getting old people injuries(dad's had 2 knee, 1 shoulder, and 3 back surgeries)

    so i think the reason that the wii has had continued success may be because they keep giving people more and different reasons to buy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 8:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Funny thing. Zelda is a port of a GameCube game, and Okami is a PS2 game. Your best two Wii games are ports from other consoles.

    I have a Wii and love it, I just find those examples weak.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    PaulT (profile), Mar 24th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, it IS improving, and it's not as bad as many make out. There are plenty of decent top-drawer games on the system, just not the FPS games loved by so many Western "hardcore" gamers.

    "There's something seriously off about a system that can move that many units and not appeal to 3rd party developers"

    The shovelware problem comes from the early history of the Wii. Many 3rd party developers (i.e. nearly all big names apart from Ubisoft and EA) dismissed the Wii and decided to plough ahead into development for the 360 and PS3 instead. They assumed that the lack of HD and the unusual control system would make it a non-starter. They were wrong, and completely caught off-guard by the Wii's success.

    Now, it doesn't take a genius to work out that the quickest and cheapest way for these developers to get games on the system is to dump a load of shovelware onto the system. There are small developers who have churned out some god-awful "original" games (most of the worst shovelware is from the same 2 companies), while many of the bigger names started off by simply welding Wii controls onto PS2 games.

    Now that the market has matured quite a lot, there's quite a few decent games coming out, many of them Wii exclusives (Madworld, The Conduit, Deadly Creatures, Overkill as well as cheaper WiiWare titles like the Strong Bad series, LostWinds, etc.). Not only that, but there's a number of great games that simply could not work with a joypad (Trauma Center comes to mind). The simple fact is that good games take longer to make than a bad one, and most 3rd parties didn't even bother starting until *after* the Wii had been released.

    The shovelware's still there, but you can easily ignore it if you bother to read reviews or even just stick to trustworthy developers. Yeah, the system has Ninjabread Man and 100 crappy minigame compilations, but it also has Metroid Prime 3, Brawl and de Blob.

    For the record, I also own a 360, and I play on both consoles equally. If I want to play CoD4, BioShock, GTA4 or Pure, I fire up my 360. If I want Zelda, Madworld, Zack & Wiki or Wii Fit, I fire up the Wii. There's not really any need to attack a console for not doing what another console does, but then I do actually look at what I'm buying before handing over the cash, be it a game or a console. But, the "no good games" argument is pretty tiresome. It wasn't really true 2 years ago, and it sure as hell isn't true now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
    ed, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    We own two Wiis and use them both

    I don't know if its astroturfing or people who really don't know, but we get tons of enjoyment from our Wiis. Our youngest plays the "Lego" games constantly and myself and our oldest play Call of Duty World at War for hours on end during the weekends.

    I realize that many of the games are also available on other consoles, and indeed sometimes I wish I had CoD on a 360 or PS3 because of the graphics. However, the controllers on those consoles don't hold a candle to the Wii controllers. After a marathon gaming session I don't even have sore thumbs or stiff hands, not to mention hunched shoulders from keeping both hands together on a tiny controller.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28. identicon
    SeanG, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re: Needs hardcore players?

    Er, the Wii seems to have been winning for 2.5 years, and there isn't a game for a hard core gamer for the thing -- at least not one that isn't better on another platform.

    Nah, the Wii is completely different. It's a game machine aimed at people who aren't gamers. And it works. I've seen people who wouldn't touch a PS or an XBox play and enjoy games on the Wii -- even tell me how great they are, how much fun they are. It's surviving -- and thriving -- not because of gamers, but because the gamers aren't the big consumers of the box.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29. identicon
    another mike, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 12:21pm


    If I want depth I'll play an MMO. I only fire up the Wii for Mario Kart and Wii Sports. Mostly Mario Kart.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30. identicon
    Danny, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    I've never really been on board with the "Nintendo needs to make more adult-oriented games" argment (mainly because "adult-oriented" usually just means blood, sex, and violence). Its good to have someone trying to do something different. People complain that the movie industry is getting tiresome because the studios are just recycling the same stuff over and over with little deviation. I'm glad that at least in the gaming world someone is trying to deviate.

    If Nintendo started to try to go in the direction that Sony and MS are you'd be leaving the casual gamers out in the cold. Hardcore gamers have 2 systems to choose from. Is that not enough?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31. identicon
    RevWillie56, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 10:26am

    Re: "little surprising"

    Not just the lack of games of any depth, but the lack of console additions that are capable of giving the WII some serious depth. Be better for the bod to use the WII, game controller, plastic addon to the controller, and WII Fitness to get around in the game. (I think I have the WII fitness working nominally, but I'm going to have to work on the graphics engine to get a better view of the Island)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32. identicon
    Jack, Mar 27th, 2009 @ 9:14pm

    Wii Scarcity? = SOP at Nintendo

    Com'on, they are well known for doing this scarcity thing for more than a dozen years with various carts, like a hot Mario at Christmas time. Parents remember these things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33. identicon
    Wii Points, Jul 27th, 2009 @ 5:27pm


    I actually wanted a Wii in the beginning of this year, but the Wii's were sold out in like every store. I had to settle for an Xbox 360, lmao. But I don't regret it, it's a good system anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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