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Notes from Reggie's Wii shortages conference call

Reggie Fils-Aime, big cheese at Nintendo of America, held a rather short-notice conference call this morning to discuss – what else? – the incredible success of the Wii and DS as evidenced by the November sales figures released last night (or: Hey Reggie, why the crap can't I find a Wii for my kid/parents/uncle/loved one?).

Most importantly for those of you still hunting Wii: six national retailers will be running ads in their weekend circulars promoting shipments of the console for this weekend. Keep your eyes peeled at Best Buy, Kmart, Sears, Target, Toys 'R Us, and Circuit City. Super-retailer Wal-Mart will be "pushing out massive amounts" all week long. So, Reggie wants you to know that they're making as many as they can produce, which is currently 1.8m consoles a month. With over 50% of that amount being sold in the US alone last month, it's clear that the North American shortage is getting attention from Japan. Still convinced they're withholding demand? Reggie says, "This shortfall benefits no one."

To further help ameliorate shortages, they've tripled their distribution workforce in North Bend, WA (pictured above) to help meet consumer demand. As for DS Lite shortages around the holidays (remember last year?), Reggie said there are "no reported shortages" of the insanely popular little bugger, but that they did expect inventory to get "tight" around December 24th. This doesn't mean it'll be impossible to find, but that you can expect some stores to be sold out as we get closer to Christmas.

Regarding software sales on the Wii platform, Reggie painted a pretty bright picture, noting Super Mario Galaxy's strong November sales. Over 6m pieces of Wii software were sold in November – nearly a 6:1 software/hardware sales rate – pushing the console's attach rate above that of the PS2's in the same period in that console's lifespan (yeah, but where is the PS2 now ... oh, yeah). Leading up to November, the Wii enjoyed a tie ratio of 3.4 games for each console and Reggie chirped, "we expect that our attach rate will continue to increase over the life of the system."

When a caller brought up the lingering issue of shovelware on the Wii platform and wanted to know if Nintendo will do anything to curb the number of poorly made titles on the system, Reggie responded by essentially saying the market will work itself out. Citing Guitar Hero III specifically he said, "The fact is, those publishers that do a great job enjoy fantastic sales and the quality shows." As much as we believe you Reggie, our copy of Capcom's excellent Zack & Wiki doesn't.

Accessory sell through is similarly positive, as Reggie cited reports of Wii Zapper shortages, and strong Wii Fit sales in Japan. Speaking of accessories, Reggie hinted strongly in an answer to a question that a headset peripheral enabling voice chat in Wii games would be available. "I would not be surprised to see that capability come on our system."

"The fact that we've sold through over 6m units in just over a year is unheard of in our industry," Reggie gloated. A caller asks if they're air freighting systems over from their production facilities in the Far East, which Reggie skips past saying, "In terms of our distribution systems, I really don't want to comment on that ... We are doing some unique things that are proprietary." Proprietary? Like warp pipes?

Other interesting tidbits from the opening of the call: Reggie noted that the average age of a Wii owner was 29, perhaps slightly higher than the average age of other console owners, while lower than industry-wide figures published by the ESA (which include older, casual PC gamers). He also said the "vast majority" of Wii console owners are "Core" players, willing to wait in line before retailers open to get one (note: these gamers also answer to "mom").

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