By Yi-Wyn Yen
For all the last-minute Christmas shoppers who can't find a Wii, Nintendo (NTDOY) is offering gift certificates that guarantee you can pick one up in January. Consumers must pay the $249 for the sold-out video game console at a GameStop (GME) on Dec. 20 and 21 and will then receive an I.O.U. to pick up the Wii after the holidays.
"We expect this to be a great way to put something underneath the tree,'" Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said during a conference call this morning. "GameStop will have many tens of thousands of rainchecks."
Nintendo has underestimated the demand of the red-hot Wii since it launched in November 2006. The Kyoto-based company has sold more than 6 million Wiis in the U.S. since its release, and last month sold 981,000 units, more than doubling sales of the Sony (SNE) PlayStation 3 and outpacing the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360 by 211,000, according to NPD Group. While Nintendo has increased production by 80 percent since the launch, Fils-Aime says they did not expect such a craze for the Wii.
"We went into the launch of the Wii with very high expectations. We had expected to be in the upper range of console launches," Fils-Aime said. "But this is unheard of."
Last holiday season, Nintendo faced a similar shortage problem with its handheld gaming system, Nintendo DS. Last month Nintendo sold a record 1.53 million units, and Fils-Aime says there will be enough of the portable consoles to go around this Christmas. "Any consumer who wants a DS this holiday will be able to find it," he said.
While Nintendo's raincheck system will appease some, thousands are still paying a premium on sites like eBay (EBAY), Amazon (AMZN) and boutique shops to get an actual Wii. Some retailers are packaging extra controllers and games to mark up the cost of the $249 console by more than $200-$300. "We are always disappointed if we see retailers pricing products above the MSRP," Fils-Aime said. "The only way we can combat that type of activity is by not rewarding those retailers with excess supply of products."
Nintendo says consoles will be available at six major retailers - Best Buy (BBY), Sears (SHLD), Target (TGT), Toys R US, Kmart, and Circuit City (CC) - this weekend.