On to Best Buy, where the sad, lonely game area employee looked deflated before I'd even gotten the letters "Dee Ess" out of my mouth. He knows how many they could have sold if they'd been on shelves. He's answered the hopeful enquiries of would-be DS shoppers with devastating "No's" more times than he can count. He's a veteran of the After Christmas Campaign, and his 1,000-yard stare would rival that of any of the Lost Generation. Best Buy has been in enemy hands since the two weeks before Christmas. They aren't expecting reinforcements until February. The rear echelon insists they hold the line. Hold the line, boys. Hold the line.
And so, after an hour and a half of fruitless shopping, I was forced to board the plane DS-less. It was a crushing defeat. And yet, undaunted, I saw this as an opportunity to search an entirely different area's retail jungle for the elusive hand-held. Hours after arriving in the Dallas area, I began hitting stores. I felt once again like a superman. If my local shops wouldn't serve me, I'd fly somewhat less faster than a speeding bullet to another part of the country and shop there. It was, I thought, a foolproof plan. I was wrong.
It turns out Texans are just as hungry for the DS as anybody else. I tried four more stores, all of which gave me the same company line: Sold out. Have been for weeks. Don't know when this will change.
How could this happen? I felt like I'd missed the most important game-related story of the season, and perhaps I had. A three-year old handheld unit is sold out everywhere, for weeks, while PS3s sit on shelves collecting dust. Since when did the hand-held market define the videogame industry? Since now, apparently, and the revolution has gone unnoticed by those of us on the inside, who've been harboring our next-gen grudges and polishing previews of games few people care to play. We may have captured the pulse of the hardcore demographic, but the hardcore isn't the heartbeat of the industry any more. We're no longer supermen. Now we're just Clark Kents. Maybe we've got the girl, but we'll get our asses kicked in the diner. And we won't, no matter how many stores we try, find a DS the month after Christmas. The best I can hope for at this point is to find one before February, and even that looks dicey.
As I sat in airports, on airplanes and in my mother's house, desperately needing some way to distract myself from the deafening chatter, the droning jet engines, my brother's kids and my own abject failure to predict the season's most sought-after game console and a hardware shortage, three years post launch, I wondered how the supermen had become mere men, why we'd missed the biggest story of the holiday season, and just who exactly was buying all these Nintendo DS machines.
On a plane from Raleigh to Kansas City, I saw a lady of not insignificant years playing an original DS. At an airport, waiting for a connection, I saw a little girl with a pink DS. Across from her sat a grandmother, perhaps her grandmother, playing a brain training game on a black DS Lite. My black DS Lite. These are people I'd never imagined would be playing games a few years ago, yet there they sat, tapping away at their hand-held devices as casually as working a crossword puzzle.
It's the dawn of a new era. Humility suits you, Superman. Now get back in there and fight.
Russ Pitts is an Associate Editor for The Escapist. His blog can be found at www.falsegravity.com.