Amid nationwide shortages of the hot-selling Nintendo Wii, retailer GameStop said it will offer customers a one-day only prepaid "rain check" for the consoles.
In a bid to ensure that Wii-hungry consumers won't go without a Wii — or at least the promise of one — under the tree this year, Nintendo announced the program last week.
Customers who want to buy a Wii -- but can't find one -- will be able to pre-pay $250 for the gaming console Friday, Dec. 21, according to GameStop. Only one purchase is allowed per household and must be made in person at the retail stores. Through the limited availability program, customers are guaranteed a Wii by Jan. 25, 2008.
"[The Wii] has been a sellout virtually everywhere in America," Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said Friday. "We understand the frustration of consumers. … I can tell you that we expect no slowdown after the first of the year. We want to say that if you could possibly hold out just a little longer, there will be more product in January."
Only a limited number of the rain checks — Fils-Aime estimated tens of thousands — will be available in each store.
According to GameStop, when the customer's console arrives at the store, he or she will receive a phone call; the consoles must be picked up at the store where they were purchased.
Nintendo has faced criticism for its shortages of the Wii this holiday season. Some critics have even accused the company of creating a false shortage to increase hype for the brand.
"This shortfall benefits no one," Fils-Aime said. "Enough systems would make everyone, including me, happy."
Nintendo has upped the manufacturing and distribution ante, according to Fils-Aime, but to no avail.
"At launch we were producing a million systems a month. Since April, we upped worldwide production twice. … The current production run is 1.8 million systems a month. We'll keep producing that level for quite a while," he said. "We've tripled our work force in distribution."
Nintendo has no plans to manufacture the consoles, which are made in Japan, in the United States, despite supply shortages, he said.
The company is "disappointed" in retailers who are jacking up the price of the console, which retails for $249.99, because of the shortage.
"We do not have a program … that would fix prices on the upside [in stores]," he said. "Having said that we are always very disappointed if we see retailers that are pricing our products above the MSRP price. The only way to combat that activity is by not rewarding those retailers with excess supply of product."
Nintendo's competition is hoping to take advantage of the Wii shortage.
Sony CEO Howard Stringer has been counting on impatient consumers who won't be able to wait for their gaming fix. His recent $100 cut in the price of Sony's PlayStation3 console has made it more competitive, Stringer told The Associated Press last month.
But Silicon Valley technology analyst Rob Enderle said that he still believes the shortage could hurt Nintendo, with or without a rain check.
"Kids want to open something for Christmas. Parents want to see the smile," Enderle said. "A rain check, a piece of paper, isn't going to cut it. It's better than nothing, but probably not a whole lot better than nothing."