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I visited seven or eight retailers yesterday — a mix of Walmarts, Targets and Best Buys — in an attempt to locate either an Xbox One or PlayStation 4. Thanks to both short supply and crushing demand, both systems are nearly impossible to track down. At the trickling pace stock is being replenished in many stores, the odds of getting one or the other before Christmas appears very low. And it’s that fact that may be helping the oft-forgotten third contestant in this next-generation race: Nintendo’s Wii U.

wii-u-zeldaMy trips to all those stores revealed something very interesting about Wii U stock — there isn’t a whole lot of it. Some stores had one lone console sitting on the shelf while others were sold out entirely. Amazon is sold out of every model and Wii U bundle, and third-party Marketplace sellers there are actually selling the console at an inflated price, much like they’re doing with the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. That tells me that the Nintendo Wii U, which registered abysmal sales numbers in the second quarter of this year (160,000 consoles sold), may suddenly be in demand for the first time in its short life.

Is this due to the fact that gamers can’t find Xbox Ones or PlayStation 4s anywhere? That might have something to do with it. In that way, the Wii U is kind of like the rebound console for gamers who can’t track down one of the other options. And don’t forget about parents who are shopping for Christmas — they’re probably picking up Wii U systems because they don’t want to leave the store empty handed, and they don’t want their kids to wake up without a game system on Christmas morning. The Wii U could absolutely be benefiting from the stock shortage the other two consoles are suffering from. That wouldn’t surprise me at all.

But to make that the sole reason the Wii U is selling wouldn’t be fair. After a year on store shelves, the Wii U is finally beginning to string together some impressive releases, and the price drop combined with the high-value bundles doesn’t hurt, either. The Wii U recently welcome both a Wind Waker HD remake and a new Mario game, Super Mario 3D World, and dropped the 32 GB Deluxe version of its console down to $299 in August. There are also some impressive bundles on sale, including one that includes Wind Waker HD at the same $299 price point. One has to wonder how the Wii U would have done if it had been priced this way all along.

Whether Wii U systems are moving thanks to the lack of Xbox Ones and PlayStation 4s, or because consumers are discovering what a great value it is, the uptick is a welcome sign for Nintendo. Its next-generation system, which seemed headed for certain failure just a few months ago, finally appears to be getting some traction in a crucial time of year for video game companies: the holidays.

Now, can Nintendo keep the momentum going past Christmas? That’s another question.


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