Major retailers will have a big supply release this weekend; GameStop will offer a rain check program for those who still can't get one. Also, what about Wii online voice chat?
In a conference call this morning, Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime explained what Nintendo was doing about the tight supply issues of the Wii, as well as detailing a new program aimed at making sure prospective Wii owners having difficulty finding the elusive console will have “something to put under the tree" this holiday.
During the call, Reggie explained why the Wii was so hard to find, and what Nintendo is doing about it. To that end, Reggie said that major retailers, including Sears, Kmart, Target, Circuit City, and Best Buy, will be releasing a big supply of Wii consoles to coincide with this Sunday's newspaper ad circulars. Wal-Mart will also have a "massive" supply of systems available throughout next week. Rumors have been flying about retailers hording Wiis, and now that Nintendo has confirmed there's a big wave of them ready to be unleashed, it seems as if those rumors are true.
To help meet the holiday demand, Nintendo has tripled its distribution workforce. However, Nintendo is only still outputting 1.8 million Wiis a month (more than half of that figure was sold in the U.S. during November), so that means the Wii consoles available are just getting to store shelves more quickly. Although the production level is double what it was when the console launched last year, the demand for the Wii hasn't let up at all since then. Nintendo has no plans to increase its current rate of production.
Reggie said Nintendo is not shipping in consoles via air freight to help cut down on transit time from Nintendo's Asian production centers to North America, like Sony has been known to do. Instead, he said that Nintendo is doing "unique things" to move consoles to the States. "We are expediting product to the Americas," he said. Reggie was also asked whether or not there were any plans to manufacture the console in the United States, to which he said there were not.
As a part of Nintendo's efforts to make sure people can give the gift of Wii in time for Christmas, Nintendo announced a partnership with games retailer GameStop called the Wii Rain Check program. The program will let consumers pre-purchase an out-of-stock Wii at full price and receive a rain check for the console guaranteed for delivery in January. Rain checks will be limited in supply, although Reggie noted there will be "many tens of thousands of rain checks available," divvied up among the retail chain's 3,000+ stores. The program begins December 20th.
The talk with Reggie touched on the success and supply line of the Nintendo DS. Even with its massive 1.53 million unit sell-through last month, the DS should not see any significant supply problems, according to Reggie. "We do not have reported shortages of DS," he said. "As we get to the 24th of December, inventory will be quite tight. There may be spot shortages at some retailers, but consumers should be able to find them."
Though the conference call focused on supply issues, Reggie did field some questions about some of Nintendo's other perceived shortcomings—namely, third party support and Wii online functionality. The lack of third party success is really on the publishers themselves, if Reggie's words are to be believed. He said that every system has "a range of quality" in its game library, and publishers are working on best using the Wii. "Those publishers who do a great job enjoy fantastic sales," he said.
Nintendo insists that things will get better. "As publishers understand how to take advantage of the unique aspects of the remote you will see better and better games," Reggie said. "Nintendo is working hand in glove with publishers to share with them our level of expertise with the technology."
Finally, Reggie was asked about Wii's online functionality—or lack thereof in certain areas. Particularly, will there ever be online multiplayer functionality in Virtual Console games? Probably not, as Reggie said Nintendo "does not anticipate" there being this functionality in the future. Online voice chat is another thorn in Nintendo's side, and to that, Reggie responded, "our system has the capability for online voice chat. What it comes down to is finalizing the peripheral."
Wii owners looking for this feature in their online games may have reason to be optimistic. Reggie finished answering the question saying, "I would not be surprised to see that capability come to this system."