Happy Holidays for Gamers: Price Wars Expected for Video-Game Consoles

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Gamers won’t be able to get their hands on the new Nintendo Wii U games system until November 18, but preorders from some major retailers for the $300 consoles have already sold out. Discounts for the Wii U are unlikely in the months ahead considering that it’s brand new and demand is sky high. Nonetheless, the upcoming holiday season could be a banner time for consumers hunting for lower-priced video game consoles.

It looks like one of the hottest purchases for the 2012 holidays will be the Nintendo Wii U, the first major upgrade to the Wii system since 2006. More than two months before the system officially goes on sale, preorders for the deluxe Wii U—which comes in black and features 32GB of memory, a charging station, and the “Nintendo Land” video game, priced at $349.99—have already sold out at retailers such as Best Buy, GameStop, and Toys R Us, reports the Detroit News.

Not only will be all but impossible to find the new system marked down below retail this holiday season, it may be difficult to purchase it for full price. Some sellers on eBay are already offering their preorder Wii U systems for “Buy It Now” prices of $649.99. PCMag saw that one eBay seller was asking $900.

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Meanwhile, the basic Wii U system, which comes in white, has 8GB of memory, and is priced at $299.99, is still available for preorder at GameStop and other stores. Walmart is currently taking orders for Nintendo Wii Solution Bundels, which include a game console, a choice of game, and a choice of Wii Remote Plus. The package with the basic Wii system is $399.99, and customers must add $50 if they want the deluxe black console.

To sum up, that’s $450 plus tax for the new console package, and that includes only one extra game to put under the tree. Ouch.

But it’s not all bad news for consumers hunting for deals. Whenever there’s a major upgrade in a popular techie product—see version after version of the iPhone—the older products and gear from competitors are guaranteed to be discounted.

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The Los Angeles Times highlighted the work of Digital World Research’s P.J. McNealy, who forecasts that other game consoles will lower their prices in order to compete better with the new Nintendo Wii U:

McNealy, in a report entitled “The Business Model Impact of Video Game Hardware Launch Pricing and Price Cuts,” predicted that Sony Corp. will lower the price of its PlayStation 3 console, priced at $249.99, by about $50 this holiday. He also expects that Nintendo will trim the suggested price of the Wii from $150 to $129, or even $99.

Retailers are likely to get in on the price wars as well, possibly using cheap consoles throughout the holidays as loss leaders meant to draw in customers—who, stores hope, will also pick up full price for video games and other merchandise before heading to the cash register to pay.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.
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