By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
As expected, early sales of Nintendo of America's new handheld game player Game Boy Advance created a stampede of retail traffic into toy and consumer electronics stores during the platform's June 11 release week.
Major retail chains, including Best Buy, reported selling through initial inventory allocations in a matter of hours on a somewhat staggered launch date, which came two-days later than the manufacturer's announced June 11 national release.
Circuit City, CompUSA and Target also advertised the June 13 Game Boy sale date.
A small portion of Best Buy's allotment was earmarked for customer pre-orders, but the majority sold on a first-come-first-served basis, she said. The chain would not accept advance orders for replenishment shipments — which were expected shortly.
"We are very pleased with business we generated with Game Boy Advance," a Best Buy spokesman said. "We were completely sold out by the end of the day on Wednesday."
Pete Roithmayr, Electronics Boutique, video games merchandising VP, also reported selling out the chain's initial allocation.
In contrast to many other stores, the software retail chain opted to presell only a bundled package that includes a Game Boy Advance, two games and a battery pack for an average retail price of between $180-$200, depending on the games selected. Roithmayr said his chain is not taking orders for replenishment deliveries.
One unintended beneficiary of the Game Boy Advance activity was Sony. Roithmayr said that the extra floor traffic during the launch week resulted in an "8 percent up tick in sales of Sony's PlayStation 2 consoles and a slight increase in sales of the PS1" platform, while sales of Sega's discontinued Dreamcast player remained flat.
Roithmayr reported that early software interest was clearly on Super Mario Advance and Castlevania titles, which were virtually tied for top Game Boy games sales in his chain, followed by another Game Boy title, Tony Hawk.
Nintendo of America earlier announced that it would have only 500,000 Game Boy Advance units to ship to U.S. retailers in the first allotment, but would roll out replenishment orders swiftly thereafter, with just more than 1 million players expected to reach market by the end of June. A Nintendo spokesperson confirmed those numbers are on track and replenishment orders were already on the way to some retail accounts.
She added that the pace puts Game Boy Advance on track to break the sales record for a new platform launch.
Nintendo executives have said they expect shipments of 23 million units worldwide by March 31 of next year and 60 additional games by the holiday selling season.
Despite the pent-up demand, retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, Kmart and Target added fuel to the fire by advertising an $89.99 retail price for the player — $10 below Nintendo's suggested retail price.
The aggressive pricing, which made for a razor-thin profit margin on the game player, was made for competitive reasons, retailers said.
Pricing on software varied from chain to chain, with some offering slight discounts, while others, such as Best Buy, made up for the narrow margin on players by offering Advance titles at full price — ranging between $29.95 and $39.95.
The system launched with 17 new titles, including Super Mario Advance and F-ZERO: Maximum Velocity.
Other titles debuting with the system today include Army Men Advance, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Fire Pro Wrestling, Earthworm Jim, Iridion 3-D, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, ChuChu Rocket! and GT Advance Championship Racing. Currently available titles include the following: Army Men Advance; Castlevania: Circle of the Moon; ChuChu Rocket; Earthworm Jim; Fire Pro Wrestling; F-Zero: Maximum Velocity; GT Advance Iridion 3D; Konami Krazy Racers; Namco Museum; Pinobee: Wings of Adventure; Pitfall; Rayman AdvanceReady 2 Rumble Boxing; Super Dodge Ball Advance; Super Mario Advance; and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
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