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PS3 easy to find, Wii out of stock

In a reverse from the situation at the end of last year, Sony's PlayStation 3 is now easy to find in Japan's shops, while the Nintendo Wii is all but sold out.

We've been keeping a pretty close eye on sales of the latest video-game consoles since the PlayStation 3 and Wii launched last year, particularly in their home territory of Japan, where competition is at its keenest.

The most recent sales figures for Nintendo's Wii, as reported by market analyst Media Create , show it still comfortably ahead of the PS3, with sales in the second week of January of 93,708 and 25,531 respectively. Both figures, however, represent a slight downturn compared to late last year.

To gauge how supplies are holding up we went to several of the largest electronics retailers in Tokyo to see what was in stock.

The absence from the shelves of the Wii in all but one of the five shops visited suggests that supply is once again becoming a problem, although Nintendo denies this. Conversely, Sony's machine is now easy to find and is no longer selling at inflated prices on Japan's auction sites.

One salesman at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku told us: "The PlayStation 3 is selling steadily in spite of the high price, but I wish we had more Wii consoles for the customers. The fact that it's cheap seems to help it sell well, but we never know when the next batch will come in."

Short supply may be only a temporary problem for Japanese shoppers, but one thing that stands out is that they do have alternatives to bide their time. At number two in the hardware rankings is Nintendo's other big hit, the DS Lite, while Sony's PlayStation 2 is just a few thousand sales behind its younger sibling.

As usual, Microsoft's Xbox 360 is limping far behind the other heavyweight games machines in spite of the recent boost afforded by the launch of the much-anticipated Blue Dragon game. J. Mark Lytle