For a long time, the Switch has been really hard to find in Japan, with the few units that were getting delivered pretty much flying off the shelves, not even close to satisfying demand.
Back in October, I explored the popular geek neighborhood of Akihabara in Tokyo to show just how hard it was to find a Switch. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t find any specimen of the console that was not pre-owned or massively overpriced.
Now that a year has passed from the release of Nintendo’s successful console, has the situation changed? In order to verify, I came back to Tokyo, and I walked the busy and colorful streets of Akihabara once again.
My first stop was a classic, the Yodobashi Camera megastore close to the station. If you have seen pictures of long lines of Japanese gamers waiting for the newest release, it’s likely that they were taken here.
As soon as I entered the video game area, I was welcomed by a large sign: the bundles with Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2 were unavailable, but both grey and neon stand-alone versions were in stock. The sign mentioned that the console is a popular item, and invited customers to ask directly at the cashier.
Behind the counters, I actually got to see the stock. There was a large pile of Switch consoles ready to be sold, as you can see in the fourth picture in the gallery above.
I was successful on the first try. If I wanted to actually buy a Switch, it would have taken me no more than ten minutes after setting foot outside of the station.
That being said, to better assess the situation of the stock, I decided to visit more shops. My second stop was the second-biggest store, the recently-rebranded Bic Camera.
Even here I found a sign: the situation is slightly different. Only the grey stand-alone version of the Switch was available, while the neon version was sold-out. Interestingly, that’s not the only console that was not available at the store. The slim PS4 with 1 TB hard disk drive and PS4 Pro were both sold out as well.
Unfortunately, no matter how sneaky I was, I could not locate the stock of console behind the counter, and when the employees started sending me strange looks, I opted to strategically withdraw.
The next stop was the Sofmap store on the other side of Showa Dori from Bic Camera.
The Switch was available in both color variations, and I managed to find the stock hidden behind the counter. You can see it in the second picture. While only one unit is visible, it’s likely that the boxes under it contain more consoles. Interestingly, there was a notice mentioning that each customer can only buy one console. This is a pretty common measure to keep scalpers at bay.
My fourth stop was the Sofmap Amusement Store a few hundred meters up Showa Dori.
The Switch was available, and this was the first place in which that wasn’t advertised like it’s a big deal.
All the new units I found at the stores above were priced at the standard 29,970 yen (plus taxes) price suggested by Nintendo. There was no price gouging at all (where you see the price listed at 32,378 yen, that’s because it includes taxes).
For a change of pace, I moved to the main Trader store. The Trader chain specializes in pre-owned goods.
I found several Switch units, priced between 26,600 and 26,800 yen. The fact that the price of pre-owned units has now gone below the suggested price for new ones (contrary to what we found in our previous visits) is a very solid indication that shipments are meeting demand, as no one is desperate enough to purchase overpriced pre-owned units.
Before I left Akihabara in the late afternoon, I went back to Yodobashi Camera, since they had the stock so conveniently displayed.
This visit was about three hours after the first, and as you can see, the console wasn’t flying off the shelves, while still selling steadily. About one layer of the pile was sold during my absence.
After leaving Akihabara, I decided to check out a completely different area and went to explore the Yodobashi Camera store in Shinjuku.
Both colors of the console were available, with the restriction of one purchase per customer. The stock was once more hidden behind the counter with a few units visible, and more presumably in the cardboard boxes under them.
My exploration pretty much proved that the Switch was very easy to find all over Akihabara, and also elsewhere in Tokyo. That being said, the investigation was far from ended, as I could not yet determine whether this was just a recent shipment that would quickly run out of steam, or the situation was stable enough.
I went to all the stores mentioned above on two following days (yesterday and today, to be precise), and the situation remained unchanged. The Switch has been available at all of them for the whole time.
Below you can see the convenient pile at Yodobashi on the second and third day. One layer was gone from Wednesday to Thursday, and two more on Friday. That being said, the console isn’t anywhere close to selling out at the moment.
Interestingly, a hand-written sign appeared today, advising customers that reservations are open for the Splatoon 2 bundle, which will be delivered by Nintendo on March 17th.
From my investigation, we can draw a rather simple conclusion: while the Nintendo Switch is selling very steadily, shipments appear to have normalized, and Nintendo seems to be able to meet the demand from customers.
We recently learned that the Switch sold over 3,800,000 units in Japan during its first year on the shelves. At least for the moment, it appears to be smooth sailing for Nintendo’s latest console.