Having trouble finding Nintendo's Wii this holiday season? With many retailers reporting that their inventory of the popular console is selling out within days, Nintendo said Tuesday that it had sold 350,000 Wii home systems in the U.S. during Thanksgiving week, plus 653,000 DS portables.

The sales were the highest since the week the unit was launched a year ago. By contrast, the Wii sold 519,000 units in the U.S. in all of October. The company said in a statement that it "has repeatedly increased its shipments" in order to reach demand, and that the Wii reached five million units sold in the U.S. more quickly than any other videogame system.

Price Point, Ease of Use

George Harrison, senior vice president of Nintendo of America, attributed the sales of both the console and the portable device to their being gifts that can be used by the entire family, and to their offering fun experiences at affordable prices.

The price point of $250 is certainly one of the reasons the Wii is doing so well, said Gartner analyst Jon Erensen. Among its two leading competitors of current-generation consoles, the least expensive Sony PlayStation 3 is $399 and the least-expensive Xbox 360 is about $280.

But Erensen also said that the Wii's ease of use is another factor. Designed for families and casual gamers, the Wii comes with a motion-sensing controller that features intuitive body motion as a key skill for many games.

Second-Choice Factor

Whatever the reasons, Wiis are hard to find at stores. Some observers have suggested that Nintendo is limiting supply to increase the buzz around the Wii, but Erensen said he doubts this is the case. "Nintendo wants to build up as large an installed base as it can, as soon as possible," he said, adding that a large installed base is necessary to attract the development of new games.

Erensen noted that the Wii's popularity has "caught people in the industry by surprise," and that the platform is now popular enough to encourage the development of new games.

Another incentive for Nintendo to keep shelves stocked is the second-choice factor. When desperate parents cannot find the first console of choice, they might well pick up a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360, a shift to the competition that Nintendo has every reason to avoid promoting.

Erensen said the sell-outs simply appear to be an issue of supply not being able to meet the current demand, and added that he expects the Wii "to be the strongest selling console this season."

In October, the NPD Group reported that the Wii regained its top position in units sold in the U.S. That position had been occupied in September by the Xbox 360, propelled by the launch of the newest installment of the Halo megafranchise.