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Shoppers still in search of Nintendo's new Wii U video game system have their work cut out for them.
The game system, released November 18, was "effectively sold out at retail" last week, says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. As soon as stores replenished the shelves, units were snapped up and gone, he says "The demand is quite strong out in the marketplace."
Nintendo sold more than 400,000 Wii U systems during its first seven days in U.S. stores, Fils-Aime says, citing internal Nintendo sales figures from retailers. The new high-definition game console, priced at $299.99 for an 8-Gigabyte model and $349.99 for a 32GB model, has a wireless motion-sensitive game pad with a 6.2-inch touchscreen.
Overall, Nintendo sold more than 1.2 million video game systems in the U.S. during the week of Nov. 18, including more than 300,000 Wii systems and about 275,000 Nintendo DS and 250,000 Nintendo 3DS portable systems. It was a "very strong week for Nintendo," Fils-Aime says.
The total of units sold falls below Nintendo's 2009 Thanksgiving week, when it sold 1.6 million systems, including about 550,000 Wiis. "That was at the height of (the handheld Nintendo) DS and Wii," he says.
As for the remainder of the remainder of the holiday season, "these numbers bode very well for Wii U and for 3DS," Fils-Aime says.
The Thanksgiving week sales bumped the original Wii, released six years ago, to more than 40 million sold in the U.S. And the handheld 3DS, released in March 2012, has sold 6.4 million units, which puts it slightly ahead of the Nintendo DS in its first 21 months on the market, he says.
Fils-Aime would not estimate how many Wii U systems Nintendo would be able to provide retailers during the rest of the holiday season. "It's all driven by capacity," he says. "That number is topped out by how much we're able to get into retailers."
Globally, Nintendo expects to sell 5.5 million Wii U systems by the end of its fiscal year, in March 2013.
For shoppers, Fils-Aime advised watching the Sunday newspaper circulars. Retailers advertising over the next weeks with their circulars "will have significant inventory," he says. That will be the best way to know which particular retailer will be well-stocked at any given week, he says. "But beyond that, it's really following up with phone calls and visiting retailers as frequently as possible to try and find a Wii U on shelf."
Analyst P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research considers the first-week sales a good sign for Nintendo. The 400,000-sales mark "is a great start" that suggests the company will sell more than 1 million Wii U systems in North America by the end of 2012, a similar sales trajectory as the original Wii.
"The TV commercials for the Wii U have now kicked in," he says, "and the Wii U will be a tough gift to find this holiday due to demand."
Worldwide, Nintendo is on track to ship 3 million this holiday season, says Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. "Their marketing campaign is consistent with driving demand late. They only started advertising three weeks ago, and it seems to be growing every day. They should have no problem selling out."
- by Brett Molina, USA TODAY