It’s an unfortunate truism of console launches that there is simply never enough hardware to meet consumer demand. Nintendo should know this better than anyone. The original Wii, launched in November of 2006, remained remarkably hard to come by for years after its release.

We are now less than three days away from the North American launch of Wii U. Pre-orders for the system have long since sold out, and there have already been reports that the console will be in short supply, particularly in Europe. But don’t lose hope – Nintendo is promising that for Wii U, both initial supply and replenishment will be markedly better than it was for Wii.

As the first new home console released in six years, Wii U is understandably creating quite a bit of excitement. That the manic U.S. “shopping holiday” termed Black Friday follows the system’s launch by just five days only exacerbates the situation.

Nintendo expects to produce a total of 5.5 million Wii U systems before the end of its fiscal year, which concludes March 31, 2013. With only 5.5 million consoles available worldwide over the next four-and-a-half months, how hard is it going to be for the average consumer to get his or her hands on a Wii U at or near launch? Nintendo’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, Scott Moffitt, addresses that very issue in a lengthy interview with GamesIndustry International.

“…demand is an unknown commodity but what I can tell you is that we will have more units to sell and to ship during that opening week than was the case for Wii.”

Demand may be an “unknown quantity,” but that doesn’t mean Nintendo has no idea of what to expect.

“…I can tell you that certainly we’ve seen brisk pre-sales and that the phone calls have been coming into our headquarters for quite a while now asking for more and so we do expect high demand.”

“But I can tell you this – on opening week we will have more systems on hand for the Wii U than we did for the launch of Wii. And, second, our replenishments will be more frequent this holiday time than during the Wii launch. But, having said all that, it’s impossible to exactly predict demand, and so I can’t say that we won’t have some shortages out there and that people won’t have to be a little patient with the replenishment truckload and shipments and boatloads to arrive.”

Patience? During the holiday shopping season? We’ll see. And while it’s encouraging to note that Wii U will be more readily available at and near launch than Wii was, that’s hardly a guarantee that everyone who wants a system will have the chance to purchase one. Something to keep in mind: the 5.5 million Wii U systems that Nintendo is committed to manufacturing and shipping by the end of March 2013 is actually slightly less than the number of Wii systems (5.84 million) sold from November 06 through March 07. The difference this time is, apparently, that more systems will be available initially – leaving fewer consoles for the first three months of next year. Is it a smart trade-off? What do you think?

The Nintendo Wii U launches in North America on Sunday, November 18, 2012.

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Source: GamesIndustry International, Nintendo


tags: Nintendo, Wii, Wii U