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Edge Magazine #171 January 2007

I'm backing Nintendo!

Edge #171, January 2007

"Dear Optimistic Idiot. Due to a European shortage of the Nintendo Wii console, we regret to inform you that we will be unable to supply your pre-ordered Nintendo Wii at launch. As an official distributor of Nintendo products we are guaranteed more stock before Christmas, but Nintendo have informed us, along with all other official Nintendo retailers, that the console will not be freely available until next year."

Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. It's a bit like calling your dog in for its dinner, when you haven't even opened the tin yet. Actually, it's like calling your dog in for its dinner, and then showing the dog photographs of other dogs eating their dinners, and then sewing the dog's lips together. And then shoving the tin - and the photographs, and sewing kit - up the dog's arse.

"All pre-orders will be fulfilled on a first come, first served basis, and we will fulfil your order as soon as we can". But when that will be is, frankly, anyone's guess. We certainly don't have a clue, so please don't phone, or email, asking.

"If you no longer wish to keep your pre-order with us please login to your account and remove the item from your outstanding orders. Have a wonderful Christmas, and do try and enjoy the Xbox 360 you'll probably buy instead."

Well. Here we go again, then. Another year, another console launch blighted by shortages. It's not the retailers' fault, of course. I'm sure that when they heard the news from Nintendo, they literally ripped their trousers in frustration, much as I did when I received that email. Heck, I didn't stop at my trousers; by the time I'd finished reading that message, my underpants and testicles were also in shreds.

Even though I'd kind of expected it, I naïvely hoped that perhaps - this time - they'd get their parp-holes in gear, and actually manufacture enough hardware to meet demand. History was, of course, screaming otherwise.

Prior to last year's Xbox 360 launch I was let down by another online retailer (who were, of course, let down by Microsoft - no sense in shooting the messenger). I ended up swallowing both my pride, and my sense of fiscal responsibility (and later, when I got my bank statement, several large bottles of sedatives), and went the eBay route.

Of course, by the time you read this the Wii will have been released, and you'll all know how chronic the shortages were, and whether society imploded in a big, fiery heap, with incensed consumers lobbing flaming effigies of Miyamoto-san through the doors of Nintendo Europe's HQ. Maybe they'll actually have pulled it out of the bag - a world first - a console launch where everybody gets what they wanted.

Call me Hector Stupid, but I simply don't get it. Why does this always happen? They have so long to prepare for these launches, and yet there are always, always shortages. I'm genuinely starting to believe that it's intentional. Maybe it's all about perception; better to have the media report on a sell-out, must-have item than an overstocked flop.

It never used to bother me when I could blag consoles for free (I dare say I could now, if I wasn't so cripplingly awful at blagging - I know several 'retired' games journalists, who didn't even have a monthly column or anything, who continued to receive freebies years after dropping out of the industry). But now, as a consumer, it really does piss on my goat that I can't get to play consoles at launch. Not without paying absurd sums of money.

Of course, once I get my hands on a Wii I dare say I'll forget all about the delays. Memories of my hunt for a 360 were banished moments after I fired up Call Of Duty 2.

Even so, things are a bit different this Christmas. Xbox 360 shortages were still going on until the spring, but Microsoft more or less had the next gen market to itself. Nintendo may think it's aiming at a different market to Sony and Microsoft, but the gadget-obsessed media doesn't see it like that. The PlayStation 3 is - probably - going to hit in March, or thereabouts, and Nintendo needs to have established a significant lead by then.

I say all this out of love, of course. I'm biased, and I don't care who knows it. I want Nintendo to wipe the floor with the PS3. Sony's arrogant, ill-conceived next-gen blueprint - coupled to that truly imperious price point - has genuinely angered me. It has angered me because I know that Sony knows that people are going to pay for the PS3 however inconsiderately it's priced. It's exploitation, pure and simple. There's absolutely no excuse for launching a console at that price. It's stupid - it's 3DO stupid - and I want Nintendo to punt the cocky smirk right off Sony's smug, self-satisfied gob.

Anything that could jeopardise Nintendo's chances of doing that makes me jittery. With only three or so months between the launches, there's a very real risk of people getting emails like the one above, and saying: "Sod It - I'll cancel the Wii pre-order, and save up for a PS3. That's got a tilt-sensitive thingy too, right?"

Mr Biffo co-founded Digitiser, Channel 4's Teletext-based videogames section, and now writes mainly for television

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