CALL IT Super Mario's Revenge.
Nintendo introduced the mustachioed hero Mario in the hit 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, and made him the star of its first game console in 1985. But Mario was eclipsed a decade later by Sony's PlayStation, which quickly ground Nintendo and other game manufacturers into the virtual pavement. Sony then scored a follow-up hit with PlayStation 2 in 2000.
Now it's Round 3, and the results are dramatically different. Sony's PlayStation 3, with its gargantuan buildup and matching price tag ($499 for the basic version), is being easily outsold by Nintendo's Wii, a less powerful but significantly more affordable machine (list price: $250). According to Nintendo, 400,000 Wiis were sold in the U.S. in its first eight days on the market. Sony isn't saying how many PS3s were sold, but a leading game executive estimated the number was about half that many. By year's end, Nintendo plans to ship 4 million units worldwide, to Sony's 2 million.
The price difference alone doesn't explain the gap in sales. Reviewers have raved about the Wii's motion-sensitive controllers, which turn games into arm-waving workouts, while offering more restrained notices for the PS3's graphics. But the simpler truth is that retailers have been selling every console in stock, and Sony hasn't been able to supply as many of them as Nintendo.