Nintendo’s Wii U will be out in November, but it’s not entirely clear how many of them will actually be sent out into the wild to be snatched up by rabid fans and parents who want the latest and greatest machine under the Christmas tree. Nintendo said during its quarterly earnings report earlier this week that it expects to sell 5.5 million Wii U consoles between November and the end of March. As that release day gets closer, its becoming clear that Nintendo may be basing those estimates on the low number of consoles that will actually be available.
Shortly after Nintendo announced the Wii U’s release date and price in September, a number of retailers including GameStop stopped taking pre-orders for the console. Nintendo of America president Reggis Fils-Aime said at the time that he thought supplies would be adequate. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the launch of the DS, the launch of the Wii, and the launch of the 3DS. And our supply chain is solid,” said Fils-Aime, “We want to satisfy all of the demand that’s out there.”
This week Nintendo confirmed that GameStop had sold 250,000 additional “wait list” pre-orders for the Wii U, guarantees for customers looking to get the system whenever they might become available. While that statistic certainly suggests demand for Nintendo’s new device, it also suggests that rumors about Nintendo’s Wii U manufacturing problems hold some truth. In August, word was that Nintendo might even have to detail the console’s European release due to problems manufacturing its signature tablet controller.
Further demonstrating Nintendo’s supply problems is a Thursday report from Computer and Video Games. An anonymous retailer told that outlet that Nintendo would be shipping a paltry 25,000 Wii U consoles in the UK on launch day. Another retailer confirmed that figure. While a third source said it was expecting “between 75,000 and 100,000 units during the launch period,” they also said that Nintendo hadn’t indicated when those systems might be made available.
Nintendo UK failed to quell concerns. “Wii U stock levels will be tight on day one,” said a representative, “However, we will be providing retailers with regular stock deliveries in the run up to Christmas in order to meet demand as quickly as possible.”
Scarcity can be a good thing for technology companies, driving demand to a fever pitch. Since Nintendo is selling its console at a loss, though, it needs to be selling software at a strong clip to make up for lost revenue. If people can’t buy the machine, they won’t be buying the games.