We Want Wii!

December 21, 2007

They’ve been on the market for more than a year, but rave reviews and manufacturer’s shortages have combined to make the Nintendo Wii the “I’ll do absolutely anything to buy one” item this holiday season.

That “anything for a Wii” mentality means that those anxious to score one for Christmas are paying several times the $249 list price (thus creating a new job category: professional Wii reseller). But … even if they are willing to pay top dollar, how do they find a Wii to buy?

In addition to bidding on eBay, many have resorted to bribing local shop owners, following delivery trucks, subscribing to services that alert them to the toy’s availability (“Toys R Us just got a shipment!”), and, of course, camping out in front of stores.

A few weeks ago, I heard a National Public Radio reporter say that the Nintendo World Store in New York is one of the best places in the country to buy the machine because it receives a shipment every day. Those regular deliveries mean that, rain or shine, potential buyers are massed outside, patiently waiting for the store to open.

Of course, purchasing such a desirable item isn’t a simple as strolling in and whipping out a credit card. The Nintendo World Store employs a strict system that maintains order:

  1. Since the Wii is sold on a first-come-first-served basis, buyers line up in front of the door. Many come as part of a “buying team” — one member can go for a hot chocolate or take a bathroom break while the other team members maintain their position in the queue.
  2. Security guards (sometimes aided by police officers) stand at several points, preventing line cutting and jumping.
  3. A hour or two before the store’s official opening time, numbered bracelets — one per machine in stock — are distributed to the crowd, front to back. Each person is limited to one bracelet, which gives them the right to buy one Wii.
  4. Simply obtaining a bracelet is not enough; the potential buyer must continue to stay in the line until their number is called. Sometimes the doors open a bit before 9:00 a.m.; if your number is called and you aren’t present to enter the store, you lose your chance and the guards simply go on to the next person.

Tonight I stopped by the queue and spoke the woman at the front, who lay on the ground bundled up in a sleeping bag. She was waiting to enter the Valhalla-like shop and buy a Wii, she said, for her 12-year-old sister and had set up her little camp at 5:00 p.m. By the time the store opens at 9:00 tomorrow, she will have logged 16 hours in her frigid spot on the New York City sidewalk.

Secure in the #1 spot

Linewaiters, settled in for the night

This is his sixth time on the queue

Buddies ready for the long haul

Cleaners working inside the closed store

Nintendo World Store
National Public Radio: Finding a Wii
SF Gate: How I Scored a Wii
PC World: Wii Shortage Blame Game: Don’t Just Blame Nintendo
Consumerist: Confessions of a Wii Reseller
Gizmodo: Nintendo Not Going to Have Enough Wiis This Holiday Season

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