It might take a miracle from the North Pole for video game fans to get their wish this season.
New game consoles from Sony and Microsoft are sold out in many stores, with Sony's less expensive PlayStation 4 proving to be especially difficult for shoppers to find. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One had stronger sales during their first two weeks on the market — more than two million each — than any previous game console, according to DFC Intelligence, a game research firm in San Diego.
Those strong sales are the latest and strongest evidence yet that the console business appears to be turning into a two-horse race, with Sony and Microsoft jockeying for the lead and Nintendo eventually falling to a distant third. Nintendo's Wii U has had meager sales since it was introduced last year, putting the company on its heels.
An overall surge in console sales was widely expected.
Pent-up demand for the new Sony and Microsoft systems swelled among gamers, who were buoyed by the promise of more powerful hardware that could produce better game graphics and effects. But seeing the machines fly off the shelves has still cheered an industry that has slumped in recent years, as consoles aged and cheaper games on smartphones and tablets became more compelling.
Jonathan Sandler, a spokesman for the electronics chain Best Buy, said the Sony and Microsoft consoles had been hard to find in its stores at different times since they went on sale in November.
The retailer said it had "limited quantities" of PlayStation 4s for sale on Sunday, while the Xbox One was available in Best Buy stores and on its website.
"We're completely sold out," Chad Taylor, a product manager at Abt Electronics, a large electronics store in Glenview, Ill., said of the new Sony and Microsoft consoles. "As fast as they get here, they go out. We get phone calls nonstop."
(Read more: Xbox One vs. PlayStation 4 tied—except on eBay)
Nathaniel Rosario, a tech support analyst at Verizon Wireless in Rochester, is one of the many frustrated gamers who took to Twitter to vent his frustration over his inability to find a PlayStation 4. He said he could not find the system at Best Buy or other stores and refused to pay the huge markups people were asking on Craigslist for the console.
"I still can't find one, so I was thinking I might just have to wait a month or two," Mr. Rosario, 25, said in an email exchange. "Should have preordered."
Consoles are almost always scarce when they are first released, in part because of production constraints.