With less than three weeks until Christmas, how will you get a Wii under the tree?
Nintendo says it's going to fall short of the white-hot demand for its $250 gaming console. But conservative estimates suggest the company will get at least a million more Wiis into the channel this December.
Want to make one of those your own? Here's our shopping advice.
Sunday: God Rested -- You Get Up Early
The best time for Wii hunting is early Sunday mornings, because that's when retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart release their weekly advertisements. And if they advertise Wii in the paper, they'll hold some systems for the day the ad hits.
"Big-box retailers are taking advantage of the shortage to entice customers to their stores," says David Abrams, who runs the videogame deals site Cheap Ass Gamer. "If they expect to have Wii in stock, they will mention it in their weekly ads."
"Sometimes, stores will hand out tickets before the doors actually open," he says. These should be the first stores you visit, since you will find out before they open for business whether or not you'll get a Wii. And then, taking after the iPhone lady, you can always buy out someone's place in line if you're too late.
The trick is to get your hands on the ads before Sunday morning, so you know where to line up. Abrams says users of his site post ads in the forums, so that might be an excellent place to start.
Get to Know Your Friendly Neighborhood Wiitailer
Nintendo senior vice president George Harrison tells would-be Wii buyers to be persistent. "Figure out when the shipments are arriving in the store," he says.
It's good advice. Talk to the guys behind the registers at your local retailers, and find out when they get Wii shipments. Even if they end up holding some for Sunday, chances are they'll put out at least some of their stock the minute it arrives.
Abrams says that big-box stores get more Wiis per store than gaming specialty retailers like GameStop. So go to Wal-Mart before you go to the mall.
Don't Bother With Web Retailers
The internet might help you track down Sunday ads, but don't expect to get a Wii by stalking online retailers. While web shops are getting some consoles, a horde of people -- glued to their monitors, and with excellent clicking and form-filling skills -- will surely beat you to the punch.
Case in point: When Amazon.com received a shipment of 1,400 Wiis on Black Friday, reports say the e-tailing giant sold out of them in 10 minutes.
And even when online stores do get Wii in stock, most of them bundle the system with a bunch of games and accessories. GameStop's website only sells Wii in $600 bundles with five games and some accessories -- and won't even deliver in time for Christmas.
As for sites like Nintendo Wii Tracker that promise to automatically find out when Wii is in stock online: Don't waste your time. Most of these were built and last updated in 2006 when Wii launched, and are out of date now.
Suck It Up and Go Crawling to eBay or Craigslist
There's one place where you can buy a Wii any time, day or night, and have it guaranteed to be under the Christmas tree. Unfortunately for your wallet, that place is eBay. But currently well over 13,000 auctions post Wii consoles at the online auction house. Winners generally shell out about $400 each.
Just think about it this way: Using eBay to buy a Wii is like having your own personal shopper. For a $150 premium over the purchase price, someone else will get up at 4 a.m., stand in the cold, fight off soccer moms and bring home your Wii, while you sleep in and stay sane. Sounds like a fair trade to us.
But even if you decide to head to eBay, bear these caveats in mind. Most Wii auctions advertise that the system comes with five games. While this is technically true, this likely refers to the five games included on the Wii Sports disc that comes with every system.
And if a Wii does come with legitimate extra games and controllers, don't bother. For some reason, the addition of a $50 game and a $40 controller bumps the price of the average Wii auction from $400 to $600. You should be able to find any game or controller you want on store shelves this holiday -- they're not scarce, only the console is.
"Before bidding, read over the listings several times and always check seller feedback," cautions Abrams.
And if you want to be absolutely sure you're not getting ripped off, check local sites like craigslist for people who will sell you a Wii in person.