It looks like the Wii U may be sold out, my friends, which means it’s time to put on black and go into mourning. Gnash your teeth. Wail. Shrug if you couldn’t care less. Or, of course, reach deep into your pockets and pull out wads of cash to pay that sordid segment of the secondary market more than happy to guarantee you a system on launch day for roughly 1000% markup.
I just checked GameStop — both the $300 Basic and $350 Deluxe models are sold out, and as I understand it, have been since late September, just after preorders began. Target lists both models on its website but not a button to preorder them. Kmart’s listing is basically the same as Target’s. And Toys ‘R’ Us says the Wii U will be available at launch, but to “check back soon to pre-order.”
Walmart‘s online listing for the 32 GB model (I couldn’t find the 8 GB version) won’t let you order online, showing “In stores only” and allowing you to check store availability. I ran a quick search around Michigan, near Ann Arbor (where I live) including Detroit, and not a single store lists the system as “carried.” It’s the same story in Los Angeles, New York and Miami. At this point, I’m assuming your only chance of buying a Wii U from Walmart is going to involve waiting in line on launch day, Nov. 18.
Best Buy lists the Wii U as “sold out online.” Fry’s isn’t carrying the Wii U (yet, anyway — it just lists a handful of games). Neither Micro Center nor H.H. Gregg are carrying anything for the Wii U at this point, so they may or may not be launch day options. Sears is carrying the Wii U, but doesn’t appear to be pre-selling it (the company’s website says it’ll be available in stores at launch).
It’s the same story at Amazon — the system’s sold out, except here you’ll start to see the third-party price-gougers doing their thing. Right now, you can buy a “new” Wii U through Amazon starting at $490 (and climbing — one seller’s offering the system for an unhinged $1 million), a “collectible” version starting at $698 (except there is no collectible version — doesn’t Amazon have a way to weed out false advertising?) and someone with the nerve to claim they have a used model to sell (“Used only a couple of times. Comes with original box and paperwork. Also comes with Mario Bros. U”) for just under $800.
Hop over to eBay and it’s as you’d expect, with bidding wars in the $300 to $500 range, to ambitious listings asking $3,000 “or best offer.”
I scouted for Wii U sales trackers and didn’t find much. There’s NowInStock.net, which lists the Wii U as “out of stock” everywhere, save eBay. Another tracker, zooLert, currently reports the same. I’m seeing a few other amateur trackers out there, but they haven’t been updated in months.
In short, if you’re just tuning in, thinking it’d be fun to have a two-screen game system (and a new Mario game) on tap for the big family get-together next week (Thanksgiving — I know, it snuck up on me, too), it’s sadly too late to preorder. Which means your best bet come Saturday midnight or whenever your local retailer opens to sell the thing, is going to be standing in line.
Or is it? Is the Wii U really that popular already, or is the problem on Nintendo’s end with shipment allocation? According to a report on NASDAQ.com, Nintendo could well outperform the Wii in unit sales by the close of the year — 3.5 million units sold, say analysts, compared to the original Wii’s 3.1 million back in 2006.
But in the same piece, employees for GameStop indicate that some stores may not hold midnight launches because they haven’t been allocated enough units (an unconfirmed report citing a GameStop store manager suggests the reason may be security concerns, though that didn’t stop the company from midnight-launching the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii).
As usual, it’s unclear what the problem is, but Nintendo seems upbeat it can keep the systems rolling.
According to Nintendo of America’s VP of marketing, Scott Moffitt (speaking to Venturebeat), Nintendo intends for product “to be available on day one in stores throughout the country.” It’s not clear who’s who in that lineup, but it’s safe to assume anyone who didn’t opt to sell through their allocation in preorders should have a few, and Moffitt specifically names GameStop as having “not sold all of their day one allocation.”
Moreover, says Moffit, Nintendo is doubling down on claims that it’ll have “more Wii U units on store shelves in week one than we did for Wii in 2006″ and that it’ll “also have replenishment much more frequently during the holiday than we did for Wii.”
And according to Tiffany Cho, a manager with Nintendo of America who confirmed the following to me Tuesday night, Nintendo is “doing everything [it] can to get as many systems into the hands of shoppers as possible during the holiday season.
“We are providing retailers with regular shipments of Wii U through the holidays and into 2013,” added Cho. “As Mr. Iwata announced, we expect to ship 5.5 million Wii U systems worldwide by the end of March.”