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What's The Deal, Nintendo?

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As you might have guessed, we're pretty big into gaming over at my house -- our console set-up includes the both generations of the Xbox, not one but TWO PS2's (one for the living room, one for the bedroom), a Dell XPS with a wide-screen monitor (for PC gaming), a Nintendo Gamecube, a Nintendo 64, an SNES, and a Gameboy -- oh, and possibly a Sony PSP floating around somewhere. Our 50" big-screen is optimized for the best gaming experience, with surround-sound Bose speakers and wireless networking.

So...why did it take over a year for us to finally buy a Wii? And despite searching every local EB Games and listing, why can't I buy a Nintendo DS Lite anywhere anymore?

The Nintendo Wii shortage is now notorious. As much as the company has tried to increase production, it is still almost impossible to find a console sitting on a shelf at your local video game retailer. Some claim that the shortage is intentional, but it's starting to make less and less sense given the demand and the willingness of buyers to cough up extra cash for bundled versions and eBay auctions. This holiday season, Nintendo set up a rain-check system whereby anybody who wanted a Wii was given a raincheck with the guarantee of a Wii by the end of January -- which is how we finally got our hands on a machine (and the wait time was surprisingly short, a month earlier than the "end-of-January" date we were promised). So -- what's the deal, Nintendo?

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Contrast [the Wii] with the just-released PlayStation 3, which -- contrary to all our expectations -- is starting the New Year with far higher availability than in previous months. Online, consoles are readily available with and sometimes without bundles, and they're turning up in plentiful supply at the usual chain stores. In other words, it looks like the PS3 drought might be already over. But in spite of the higher profile consoles, the DS has been outselling absolutely everything else for months. Back in November -- the most recent month for which US sales figures are available -- almost a million DSs made their way home with eager purchasers, easily making it the biggest selling console that month. It does well back home in Japan, too: it shifted nearly half a million DSs in the week of December 18-24, more than three times the sales of its closest rival, Sony's PSP.