I'm desperately trying to find a Nintendo Wii before Christmas, but everywhere is sold out -- do you know where I might be able to buy one?
Nintendo's family-friendly console is suffering from the old Buzz Lightyear syndrome -- it's the year's most sought-after gift and everywhere seems to be sold out. The problem is simply that Nintendo can't build the little blighters quick enough -- it briefly had to stop advertising them, and analysts have estimated it's missing out on $1.3bn this Christmas because of the shortages. You can buy one on eBay, of course -- but at about £80 over the £180 RRP.
It's not all doom and gloom, however. Nintendo is still shipping the consoles, and most online retailers have set up email notification systems, so when they get stock in, they tell you and if you're very quick you might just get one.
A number of free, ad-supported services have sprung up with up-to-the-minute stock information based on these notifications and their own observations -- Wii-consoles.co.uk is one such service. It has information on console-only deals or bundles, which are much more common -- because there's such high demand, retailers are packing in several games to squeeze as much profit out of you as possible. Some of these take the price over £300.
There are other options: Nintendo's handheld DS system is almost as scarce as the Wii, but the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (and 2) are readily available. Most offer a greater choice of games and functionality than the Wii -- you'll just have to put up with the disappointed faces on Christmas morning.