More than a year after its debut, the Nintendo Wii continues to fly off the shelves, courting anxious lines outside stores every time a new shipment lands.
The scene was repeated Sunday as Tampa Bay area retailers got a fresh batch of the sought-after game consoles, fast approaching the 25-million mark in worldwide unit sales. At the Best Buy store on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, more than 20 game buffs waited before the store opened its shutters Sunday.
"When we get them they are usually gone within a day," said Heather Brenemen, a manager at the Clearwater Super Target on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. The store, too, got a new shipment in on Sunday, but the game consoles were sold out by Monday afternoon.
It's a trend that industry experts notice nationwide.
"Sometimes they stay on the shelves for an hour or two," said Jim Barry, spokesman for the Consumer Electronics Association
Barry says that there's talk in the market about a "manufactured shortage" by Wii's maker, Japan-based Nintendo. But, the video game giant is probably overwhelmed by the demand onslaught for the toy, he said.
More than 720,000 Wiis were sold in March in the United States alone. That's more than the combined sales of rival Microsoft's XBox 360 and Sony's Playstation 3. And Nintendo continues to sell the Wii at the firm debut price of $249.99, even as competitors slash their price tags to bump sales.
The seventh generation game system distinguishes itself from its rivals by its wireless controller, and the handheld pointing device called the Wii Remote. The console allows players to indulge in innovative game play, physically acting out their moves instead of fiddling with keys and joysticks.
What's also worked in the Wii's favor is its revolutionary strategy to market it to a wider demographic, experts said. Teenagers want it, but so do moms, dads and grandparents.
The demand is driven by the variety of elements that the console offers, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, a consumer behavior research and strategic marketing firm. Consumers are using it for entertainment, exercise, family activity or just quenching their gaming thirst.
"It's a high-demand, hard-to-find item," Beemer said.
And it will probably continue to be that way until the summer.
"We think supply and demand will be in balance by July or August because of increased production," said Michael Pachter, a research analyst with California-based Wedbush Morgan Securities.
Nintendo reached that critical balance in Japan before Christmas and in Europe in February. The weakening dollar killed any incentive to flood the U.S. market with the consoles, Pachter said.
So, Wii fans, keep the faith. If you've been dying to own one, but can't get your hands on one, your wait may soon be over.
Madhusmita Bora can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (813) 225-3112