Console launches always lead to uncertainity around the availability of hardware. After failing to preorder, I knew if I was going to get a Wii U in 2012 it would have to be before the holiday sales opened up. That left me with 3 shopping days to acquire one before leaving it all to chance.
How did we get here?
I didn’t preorder a Wii U because I had doubts. E3 did not go well for Nintendo this year, and Reggie just didn’t hook me with Nintendoland. Sure the Gamepad looks cool enough, but would the games hold up? How long would this console last when the next generation of consoles come out? Maybe it was time to switch to PC? Too many questions to promise my money to a preorder.
It was an easy enough decision at the time as the Wii U wasn’t a reality, but failing to preorder opened up a trying few days of game hunting.
Hype filled conversations with my fellow Nintendo fans combined with the promise of eShop games on the Wii U Gamepad broke my will. I still knew I’d get quality first party Nintendo titles eventually, but Nintendo lowering the barrier of entry for indie developers made this giant DS much more attractive. Add in one solid review of ZombiU describing it as a true “survival horror” game and I had my must play title to clinch the purchase of a Deluxe Wii U console bundle.
Store #1 – Sunday
Viewers of our charity marathon can attest to my caving into the peer hype train as my friends wore me down enough for me to attempt a trip to Meijer on the eve of the Wii U’s launch. We had it on good authority that 4 units would be available in store. With 90 minutes to go before the midnight release, I ventured over with Cole, the very same man with whom I successfully acquired a Nintendo 64 on launch day. It seemed like fate. Unfortunately, we arrived too late as a line of a dozen people had already formed. I resolved to try another day and get back to gaming for the kids.
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Meh. I knew our chances on launch day were slim if we were not willing to wait in line. There was still time.
Store #2 – Monday
Assuming Wii U inventory would take a day or so to recover from launch day, I spent my morning recovering from the marathon itself. This would prove to be a mistake. As that afternoon I started reacquainting myself with online tracking sites that had helped me procure a Wii after its launch week. The Walmart closest to me was showing “in stock” while the remaining stores in the area were showing “limited stock” or “out of stock.” Looks like this game hunt would end quickly.
Upon arriving in the electronics section, the Wii U case was bare. The clerk was busy assisting a grandmother and her son as they were considering buying a new Xbox 360 with Kinect for a 5 year-old. After doing my good gamer duty of dissuading that misguided purchase (don’t spend $300 on a console for a 5 year-old just because it has a Disney game in the package), I managed to free up the clerk. I wanted to confirm with him on whether or not their online inventory was accurate. It turns out that they did indeed have Wii U’s six hours earlier when the timestamp on the inventory page had been updated. I just failed to read the timestamp. He tried to cheer me up by offereing a white Wii U that had been returned, but I was set on “Black or Bust.”
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Annoyed. This was my mistake. Had I been on top of things in the morning, I could have easily made it to the store in time. Time to get serious.
Store #3 – Tuesday
Inventory sites were stagnant all day and I began to worry that a restock wouldn’t happen before Black Friday. Just then, word came down from the internets and our own Joshleedotcom that Target stores in the area have received a new stock. Further research located several Targets with various amounts of deluxe Wii U’s available. However, I still had two more hours of work in the office before I could leave. Would the inventory hold out?
As quitting time nears, I check online one more time. The Wii U availability continues to dwindle. There are roughly 5 Target stores I could make it to on my route home, but as rush hour hits and more people get off of work, my time was short. I decided to go with the Target that was furthest away from downtown, and hopefully out of the way enough to where my competition would be limited.
Calling the store on my drive proves useless. I arrive and make my way back to electronics which of course is in the extreme back corner of the store. On my walk there, I made the fateful mistake of texting friends to see if anyone knew which store had the best Wii U software deals. As if it was a sure thing…
They have Wii U’s! Multiple even! All white… Should I give in? No. There’s still time to try another store.
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Determined. It’s now or never tonight. I was encouraged by the site of multiple white consoles available. I knew the Wii U’s were out there.
Time to call for backup. There were 3 more Targets, but I was also in an area with a Best Buy and a Toys ‘R Us. I needed to bounce my strategy off of a trusted colleague. Josh Lee answered the call with a computer at the ready. We decided that Target was the only reliable option at this point since we knew it had inventory across the area. Which Target though was the question.
- Target A was closest to my home. It was also the largest in the area, but had the most shoppers. Obviously the first location anyone would choose, so I had to go elsewhere.
- Target B was farthest away and just a last ditch effort.
- Target C was newer and may have a surprising amount of inventory. It was located in a heavily populated area, but may still be under the radar.
Target C was chosen, with a journey to B as a back up. There was no time to make it to A.
Store #4 – Tuesday, Target C
Since my one phone call to a different Target failed, I naturally no longer trusted that communication option. I had to go to the store and see for myself. Speedwalking through the store (because every second counts and appearance matters not) proved fruitless again. One white Wii U. No clerk. No time. Next Target!
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Desperate. One final attempt left, but my window seems to have closed. 2012 may be Wii U less.
Store #5 – Tuesday, Target B
This store was just up the road from the previous one. Being near a mall would either make it forgotten or picked over. Turns out it was the latter. No Wii U’s whatsoever. I was crushed as I slowly walked to exit the store. As I stood in the doorway I texted my defeat to my Nintendo crew and wondered, “Should I attempt Target A or call it a night?” Then, I heard a disturbing sound and looked up to see a small child vomiting all over the floor in the doorway. I took that as a sign.
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Defeated. Now comes the reverse hype train as I attempt to convince myself that I didn’t need a Wii U this year anyway.
Store #6 – Tuesday, Target A
It turns out the my significant other was on her way to Target A to do some preparation shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. We decided to meet up there before heading out for dinner. Without getting my hopes up, I figured I’d at least have to check out their electronics department. After all, this one was right by the entrance (and therefore picked over immediately). I almost didn’t believe it when I arrived. I immediately spotted 4 black Wii U’s in the case. But where was the clerk? Do I stay by here and lay claim or seek him out and lose my place? Panic and excitement envelope me as I finally track him down as he is assisting a mother buying a 3DS with an ungodly amount of coupons. They move to the counter and so do I. Involuntarily I sneeze and catch the clerk’s attention. My place in line is secured. It was just a matter of time. Once the mother dismissed her 3DS purchase as too expensive and I was one awkward gaming conversation away from my goal.
The clerk chatted me up and commented on my game selection, but I didn’t hear him. I was basking in the glory of a triumphant game hunt.
Game Hunt Excitement Level – Accomplished. With little to learn from my adventure as blind luck was all that assisted me in the end, no game hunt victory is sweeter than a brand new console.
Game Hunt – Tracking down just what you want, just when you want it, no matter what it takes. Not our proudest or most logical moments as the tactics may be as flawed as the hunter is stubborn, but there’s nothing like the hunt.
Giant Bomb (images)