Does anyone know why you can't get a Wii these days? There doesn't seem to be any major production drama, yet many children remain chubby, dormant and with fully functioning elbows. The strange case of the missing Wii is taken by guest Freakonomics blogger Paul Kimmelman. Is this a deliberate maneuver on Nintendo's part or even worse (gasp!) a conspiracy? Here's a summary of the mysterypuzzle muzzle, using the five issues Kimmelman raises:
1. Nintendo's manufacturing lull is inexplicable. There are no known parts shortages. There hasn't been a major production ramp by the first quarter of the console's release, which is rare. It's no secret that Nintendo is particularly coquettish about its hardware releases, and after two strikes with the strategy (N64 and GameCube), it finally paid off by creating buzz and a secondary market price spike with the Wii. Then again, perhaps vital Wii parts have been scattered across 8 distant lands, guarded by 8 fearsome creatures, overseen by 3 various forms of an evil presence, or large turtle.
2. Retailers like the hordes of kids dragging their parents to stores to check out Wii-vailability. This results in a lot of, "If we can't get a Wii, we might as well get a box set of the Beastmaster trilogy," purchases. In other words, Best Buy and Target are greasing the plumber's palm.
More after the jump...
3. Initial game developers are hurt by the dusty Wii shelves, as fewer units mean lower first generation game sales. The longer a game is on the shelf, the more irrelevant it becomes. The clear conspiracy enthusiast explanation for this is that Nintendo is holding out for the big boys, who botched their next-gen console strategy and banked on the PS3. Look at the developer list of current Wii games: games have been developed in house (Nintendo) and packaged with hardware or been more demonstration in nature, or have come from smaller or more independent players like THQ and Ubisoft. The coming months are loaded with releases from the giants - EA, Vivendi, Take Two, Eidos, Namco and Disney to name a few. EA particularly dropped the all-purpose ball with its next-gen estimates, and its stock price has taken a hit accordingly. If the Wii can hold out, still keep the consumer itching for product and unleash a ton of Wii's on the market when there are dozens of major developer titles to buy - everybody wins, right?
(Speaking of EA, Vince Young is going to be on the cover of Madden this year, which means his tibia just developed a tiny hairline fracture that will remain un-aggravated until the first pre-season game.)
4. There is no definitive take on whether the PS3 and Xbox are good economic substitutes for the Wii, because of significantly different design, price point and initial target demo. It doesn't seem like fewer Wiis in the market have boosted sales of the PS3 or Xbox 360.
5. Fewer Wiis means never having to say you're sorry - at least according to Nintendo so far. This may just be a giant "wink, wink" from Nintendo, enjoying the PR, which has been surprisingly positive, all the way to the bank.
As for Sony... it's been occupied with its European launch, which it calls enough to distract investors until Spider-Man 3 comes out a resounding success. The PS3 reportedly made over 100 million pounds its opening weekend in the UK and has sold nearly 800k total units in Europe so far. Sony still feigns laryngitis when asked to comment on the company's target of shipping 6 million units worldwide.
It certainly seems ignominious that you see fewer PS3 ads than several months ago, and that the PS3 seems to be generating much less attention, with lagging relative sales and even more lax software release schedules than the other consoles. It's also unclear whether Sony anticipated Spider-Man usurping its video game franchise as its most marketable property. After all, it used the Spider-Man font in the PlayStation 3 logo, and how many times have you seen Tobey Maguire trying to take CGI-goo off his face on TV in the last several weeks?
The definitive next-gen console winner using hack "research" 101: actually the Xbox 360, which nets 176 million hits on Google, opposed to 152 million for the Wii and 120 million for the PS3.
We Want a Wii! (Still) - [Freakonomics Blog]