MARIO PLAYS HARD TO GET

NINTENDO'S HOT NEW GAME PLAYER IS SETTING OFF A CABBAGE PATCH-LIKE CRAZE

That pudgy little plumber is jingling all the way to the bank. Two months after its release, Nintendo 64, the 3-D-saturated game machine, and its marquee title, Mario 64, have vanished from the shelves, inspiring rampant supply-side panic among hordes of would-be Santas.

"We have 900,000 machines already shipped to stores, and most of them are gone," says George Harrison, Nintendo's vice president of marketing. An additional 300,000 units (at $200 a pop) are en route from Japan, but "a week and a half before Christmas," says Harrison, "they'll be completely sold out."

The result: that rare and glorious middle-class Cabbage...

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