On face value, a shortage of day one Wii U stock will be frustrating to all retailers and publishers hoping for a smooth launch day and plenty of hardware and software sales.
But the truth is that, managed right, a tighter flow of hardware can avoid any money lost to overstocks or hasty price cuts and bundles.
Do we really want a repeat of the 3DS launch, which overestimated what the launch weekend would offer? While that format has hit its stride now, can anyone in the trade really say they want to relive what happened in March last year?
No, what we want is another ‘Wii moment’, that hard-to-hit sweet spot between supply and demand.
Nintendo’s honesty in the stock situation this week is at least preparing the trade for what we really want to happen: for a new machine to prove popular. It’s a long time, after all, since this industry has had to cope a console shortage.
RETAIL’S X FACTOR
Of course, some people with vested interests want you to think that there will be no such thing as a console shortage.
Apparently, demand has been ruined by tablets and online games, and consoles are on the way out.
They might have a bit of a point. The word ‘Xbox’ being quietly repositioned to mean a broad online offering, not just a physical box is one example in their favour. SingStar transforming into a free offering is another.
And next week, we’re dedicating a huge chunk of the magazine to the free-to-play market and how it is having an impact at the heart of the industry.
But I still can’t help but think the draw of something quirky, or innovative, or simply something you can touch will never lose its appeal.
It’s this lowercase-f X factor that Nintendo always banks on that drove the smartphone boom, and is helping matters closer to home. Skylanders, for instance, had a strong opening weekend last week, with decent sales likely to come. Even video games’ fair-weather profits-first friend
WH Smith is stocking the game’s collectable action figures.
I think the free-to-play set – either unfamiliar, lacking understanding, or being simply uninterested in console and physical goods – fail to understand this. And that will always be a strength that video games and physical retail have, when handled right.