By Lisa Baertlein
Shoppers are standing in lines to snap up Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii video game consoles as they become available, and some analysts do not expect shortages to ease until March or later.
Shoppers are finding lots of PlayStation 2s and Microsoft Xbox 360s, expected to do well as substitutes for the newest machines that are in short supply.
One employee at a Target store said the retailer issues a memo a couple of days in advance of Wii and PS3 shipments and passes the information on to shoppers, who sometimes stand in line to secure their booty.
As he spoke, shoppers snapped up PlayStation Portables and Apple Computer Inc.(Nasdaq:AAPL - news) iPods.
American Technology Research analyst Paul-Jon McNealy said that since Sony (6758.T)(NYSE:SNE - news) shipment numbers include units in transit or in warehouses, the company's target of 1 million could translate to 600,000 to 800,000 units at retail by year end.
McNealy said investors and game makers tempered their forecasts for the PS3s since initial numbers fell short. He added that the PS3 will likely remain scarce through the June quarter.
"They have to launch in Europe, and they're stretched," said McNealy.
Wii shortages could ease in the March quarter, he said.
Workers at a dozen Southern California stores, including Best Buy (NYSE:BBY - news), GameStop (NYSE:GME - news) and Target (NYSE:TGT - news) outlets, said PS3 shipments were small and sporadic this shopping season, ranging from as few as 1 or 2 to 25, and that shoppers snapped up consoles as they arrived.
"We get 1 or 2 every week to week and a half," said a weary Los Angeles GameStop employee.
Nintendo's (7974.OS) Wii was selling out fast but reaching stores in greater numbers than the PS3, store clerks said.
The $250 Wii, known for its motion-sensitive controller that can be swung like a tennis racquet or a sword, and the high-end $600 PS3 both launched in the United States in mid-November and take on the year-old Microsoft Xbox 360 in the new generation video game console battle.
Sony's PS2, which has sold more than 106 million units globally, is expected to be a top seller this season.