For the Chinese, Wiis are plentiful this season


BEIJING — China might lack safe water and air, but it does have something the United States lacks: Nintendo Wiis.

In fact, CNET recently chronicled a reporter’s failed quest to find the infamous Wii just before the holidays. But in Beijing, finding a Wii isn’t difficult.

Shortly before Christmas, I strolled through a random section of Beijing and curiously walked into a video-game shop. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the Wii selling for about $300 USD. When I asked the clerk how often the Wii is in stock, he said almost every day — although he only carries one Wii at a time. The console sells well, he added, although not as well as the Xbox 360.

To make sure this wasn’t a fluke, I walked into another store just a few doors down. Sure enough, the Wii was being sold there as well.

Now, I guess the Wiis at both stores could have been fake (after all, it’s China), but I like to think I have a keen eye for spotting the real thing. You can be the judge by scrutinizing the photo above. The clerk even offered to demo the Wii for me inside the store.

When I asked if I could play American games on a Chinese-branded system, he said this particular Wii already had been hacked to play games from every region. Wait, region-free? Right out of the (apparently opened) box? Wow.

Considering that the majority of China’s citizens care more about feeding their families than their Wii Sports scores, I’m not surprised that Wiis are easy to find in Beijing. But that doesn’t mean China has completely escaped the cold, harsh reality of western commercialism — including the United States’ obsession for the Wii. To illustrate, everyday since I’ve arrived, I’ve seen more Christmas displays in Beijing than I’ve ever seen in New York City — and Christmas isn’t even an official holiday in China.