A year ago, when Nintendo and Sony released their current-generation video game consoles, eager customers braved the cold and waited in line overnight for a chance at being among the first to purchase one. A year later, however, the situation is dramatically different: The Sony PlayStation 3, once expected to dominate the market, has languished because of high prices and a lackluster game lineup. And the Nintendo Wii, which was expected to bring up the rear in sales, has surged ahead of the competition and has literally been sold out for the entire year. Nintendo just can't make enough of the consoles. It is literally the gotta-have-it tech gift of holiday 2007.
Nintendo's influence on today's video game market cannot be understated. Though Microsoft arguably invented the current market for casual gamers with its Xbox 360-based Xbox Live service, the Microsoft console is still seen as being exclusive to hard core gamers only. Nintendo's cute and relatively inexpensive Wii console, with its innovative motion sensitive hand controllers and overly-simplistic games, has resonated far more with casual gamers and opened the market up to a much wider audience. By the end of the holiday season, Nintendo will dominate the video game market again, with its Wii console handily outselling the Xbox 360 despite being on the market less than half the time. And the PS3? Despite some price cuts, it's still a distant third, barely even an afterthought for most consumers.
Most of those hoping to get a Wii this season will be disappointed: Though Nintendo has increased manufacturing steadily throughout 2007, the company still can't make enough to satisfy demand. In this case, Web-savvy shoppers are at a serious disadvantage to those who can camp out at Toys R Us, Best Buy, and other brick and mortar retailers. The trick to getting a Wii, it seems, is being at a store when their regular shipment truck arrives, and being aggressive enough not to take no for an answer. Meanwhile, those who preorder on big name Web sites will likely end up waiting a long, long time. Unless of course you feel like being taken advantage of on eBay or some electronic retailers that only offer several-thousand-dollar Wii packages.
If you can't find a Wii, fear not, as there are other popular tech gifts to consider this Christmas. Apple's iPods are as popular as ever, and the company's iPhone, briefly considered a contender for gotta-have-it gift of the year, is readily available, thanks to slowing sales and relatively high prices. Microsoft's Zune devices are first rate as well. And let's face it: No one is going to have problems finding Xbox 360s or Sony PS3s this season. Sometimes, the best gift to buy is the one that's available for purchase.