Hoping to get that new Nintendo game system under the tree for Christmas?
Don’t hold your breath.
Most Spokane and Coeur d’Alene stores sold out of the Nintendo N64 system and its new Super Mario game within minutes of their debut this week.
“Our Nintendo rep told us there would be a real shortage of them until after Christmas,” Elaine Ferguson, manager of Kmart’s electronics department in Coeur d’Alene, said Thursday. “I think that really stinks on Nintendo’s part. What kind of marketing strategy is that?”
Stores are issuing rain checks and taking customers’ names, but they are not promising the game will be delivered any time soon.
“We can’t even promise them by Christmas,” said an employee at Spokane’s Toys “R” Us. “We’re sold out.”
“We’re a victim of Nintendo,” said Joanne Anglin, a saleswoman at the Coeur d’Alene ShopKo. “We have the orders in, but they won’t fill them.”
The game’s in such short supply because of its popularity in Japan, where Nintendo’s parent company makes it, said Beth Llewelyn, public relations manager for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
The N64 is the first 64-bit game system, which makes graphics more realistic and three-dimensional, she said.
“Mario can go anywhere - up, down, right, left, front, back,” Llewelyn said. “You could spend the whole game exploring and not even play.”
The system retails for $199.95, with each game costing an additional $69.95.
In Japan, a half-million copies of the system were sold in the first hour of sales, Llewelyn said. The game’s computer chip can be made only by one company, complicating any attempts to speed up production.
In this country, the first 350,000 systems sold out within three days of the official launch on Sunday. Because of that response, Nintendo has ordered more copies for its U.S. customers and expects to receive 350,000 more before Christmas, Llewelyn said.
But, she added, “they won’t all go to Spokane.”
If they did, it almost seems that Spokane and Coeur d’Alene shoppers would buy them all.
Frenzied Nintendo fans or their parents are scouring the region, searching for a game system that might have been missed on the bottom of the shelf.
“We sold all seven of them in seven minutes,” said an employee at the Target store on North Newport Highway. “I wasn’t here Sunday morning, thank goodness. We had 15 million calls.”
After selling nine systems on Sunday, Coeur d’Alene’s Target store received a shipment of 10 more Thursday. They quickly were gobbled up by the first 10 people - out of 40 - on the store’s waiting list, said employee Carline Centers.
Shoppers might have better luck renting the game at Blockbuster video stores - but not much. Though the video store chain is carrying between six and 10 of the game systems at each of its locations, most have been checked out since they arrived.
“The minute we put it on the shelf, someone else grabs it,” said District Manager Bob Kenna.