As each week passes without a confirmed release date or price point for the Wii U, I keep getting more and more nervous about it. I mean, buying a new console is a pretty big commitment, something to plan for and rearrange finances around in order to make sure you can afford it. I have a feeling that the less time Nintendo gives us to prepare, the less people will actually be willing to make the purchase on day one.
And that seems like terrible planning on Nintendo's part. Then again, it might actually be sneaky and brilliant too.
Think back to the launch of the original Wii. Throughout the entire first year after its launch, the Wii was pretty difficult to find sitting on a store shelf. You were far more likely to find a crudely made "Sold out" sign than a Wii at most retailers.
And what happened? This drove people crazy. It solidified the idea that "The Wii is super hard to find, which means it's rare, which means it's valuable. And I want one." I remember the exhilaration of calling a local retailer early one morning and having them tell me, "We got one Wii in today, but it won't be on the shelf for very long." The Wii had been out for about three months at that point, and I had recently spent an entire evening driving to every retailer I could think of in an attempt to purchase one. So the fact that there was one in town was a big deal. In fact, I went to another retailer later that day to pick up Twilight Princess, and the guy who sold the game to me was surprised that I actually had a Wii to play it on.
It's the simple concept of supply and demand, which you probably would have learned about had you not slept through your high school Economics course. (And I can't say I blame you; Economics is super boring.) But let's put it into simpler terms.
It's kind of like shiny Pokémon. I mean, a shiny Pokémon isn't really any better than the standard version of that Pokémon; it's just shinier. And super rare. The rareness of it makes it more desirable. I mean, if you catch a shiny Pokémon and show it off to your Pokémon-loving friends, they'll probably be slightly jealous. So a shiny Pokémon becomes kind of a status symbol among collectors. If they weren't super rare, no one would care if you managed to catch one. But they are super rare, and people do care about catching them.
The Wii was the same way. It was so hard to find in the months after launch that people wanted it more. Those who did have one had something to brag about to their friends.
I'm tempted to suspect that this was part of Nintendo's marketing plan since the beginning. I mean, it's probably safe to assume that no one expected it to sell so many units, and that the rarity of the console was due to the fact that factories couldn't produce them fast enough to keep them on shelves. Still, look how much attention the Wii got based on the fact that it was so hard to find. If this was actually a pre-meditated market strategy, it was kind of brilliant, though kind of underhanded at the same time.