Wii U (Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Nintendo)
Shoppers still in search of Nintendo's new Wii U video game system have their work cut out for them.
The game system, released Nov. 18, was "effectively sold out at retail" last week, says Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. "As soon as new product goes into stores and was put on the shelf, it was immediately purchased. ... The demand is quite strong out in the marketplace."
Nintendo sold more than 400,000 Wii U systems - for $299.99 and $349.99 -- during its first seven days in U.S. stores, Fils-Aime says, citing internal Nintendo sales figures from retailers.
Overall, Nintendo sold more than 1.2 million video game systems in the U.S. during the week of Nov. 18, including more than 300,000 Wii systems and about 275,000 Nintendo DS and 250,000 Nintendo 3DS portable systems. "A very strong week for Nintendo," Fils-Aime says.
The total units sold falls below Nintendo's 2009 Thanksgiving week, when it sold 1.6 million systems, including about 550,000 Wiis. "That was at the height of (the handheld Nintendo) DS and Wii," he says.
Fils-Aime would not estimate how many systems Nintendo would be able to provide retailers during the rest of the holiday season. "It's all driven by capacity," he says. "That number is topped out by how much we're able to get into retailers."
For shoppers, Fils-Aime advised watching the Sunday newspaper circulars. "Retailers that will be advertising over the next ... weeks with their circulars will have significant inventory," he says. "That will be the best way to understand what particular retailer will be well-stocked in the particular week. But beyond that, it's really following up with phone calls and visiting retailers as frequently as possible to try and find a Wii U on shelf."
Analyst P.J. McNealy of Digital World Research considers the first-week sales a good sign for Nintendo. The 400,000-sales mark "is a great start" that suggests the company will sell more than 1 million Wii U systems in North America by the end of 2012, a similar sales trajectory as the original Wii.
"The TV commercials for the Wii U have now kicked in," he says, "and the Wii U will be a tough gift to find this holiday due to demand."