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December 14, 2007

Wii shortage benefits North Bend; Wii 'rain checks' under the tree

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 8:29 AM

Fresh off of the report of his company's blow-out performance in November, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime held a conference call with reporters and analysts this morning to crow a bit and offer an update on manufacturing and distribution of the best-selling Wii.

"We expected Wii to perform extremely well within the historic launch parameters of the video game industry," he said. "What we didn't expect was to write an entirely new chapter in that history and to do that so fast."

The 6 million units Nintendo has sold in the U.S. since the Wii was launched in November 2006 is "unheard of in our industry," Fils-Aime said.

Nintendo has maxed out its production at 1.8 million a month. That's the limit because of supplier capacity, Fils-Aime said. The North American market received about half of that capacity in November with the remainder going to Europe and Japan.

To make sure the units coming into the United States get to retailers as quickly as possible, Nintendo has tripled its work force at its North Bend distribution facility, Fils-Aime said. (This summer, Nintendo reported about 1,000 employees in Washington state, though the company didn't break out how many were at North Bend.)

Fils-Aime said Nintendo is trying to "alleviate frustration" among shoppers who have not been able to find a Wii. He also discouraged people from paying resellers more than the full price of $250.

For parents who want "something to put under the tree," Nintendo is launching a rain check program with retailer GameStop. On Dec. 20 and 21, shoppers can pay up-front for a Wii and get a certificate guaranteeing them a console some time in January. Fils-Aime said there are "tens of thousands" of these rain checks that will be available across GameStop's roughly 3,000 locations.

He also said Nintendo expects sales to continue at pace after the first of the year.

"We have no date targeted for when our production no might change, either up or down" from 1.8 million units a month, Fils-Aime said.

Hotly anticipated new accessories, including a wireless wheel for driving games and a balance board for a new fitness program, are due out early next year -- maybe in time for those New Year's resolutions.

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Tricia Duryee
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