The old adage "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" has never really applied to gaming (unless one counts the failed eye-strain-inducing Virtual Boy). But with the new technology incorporated into Nintendo's recently released Wii, gamers, ceiling fans, and televisions have inadvertently become targets of destruction.
The console's motion-sensitive controller, affectionately dubbed the "Wii-mote" by Nintendo loyalists, is used by mimicking the motions of the game played. In the pack-in Wii Sports game, for example, players make the motion of a golf swing in the golf minigame, which is then translated onscreen. Ditto for bowling, baseball, sword-slashing, and boxing.
All that secures the TV-remote-shaped controller to players' hands is the Wii strap, a standard loop of cloth attached to the base of the controller by a thin cord. However, numerous reports have sprung up that the cord is breaking, sending the controllers flying out of the sweaty hands of gamers and into high-priced electronics, living room furniture, and the occasional innocent bystander.
Nintendo is aware of the problem, but until now has kept quiet on the matter. "We are investigating [the problem of the Wii strap]," Nintendo president Satoru Iwata told the Associated Press. "Some people are getting a lot more excited than we'd expected. We need to better communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment."
Earlier this week, Nintendo spread the safety word to registered Wii users through e-mails about proper use of the Wii and its controller. The document contained the following bullet points: "Wear the wrist strap when using the Wii Remote," "Do not let go of the remote during game play," and "Allow adequate room around you during game play," along with common-sense statements like "...the [Wii Sports bowling] ball is thrown by simply releasing the B Button on the remote, not by letting go of the remote!" The Wii also offers several safety warnings when the console is booted up and before games are played.
Still, the Internet and online video sites like YouTube are full of examples of Wii accidents. One Web site, wiihaveaproblem.com, is even dedicated to Wii-Remote-related damage of all sorts. Among the victims are beer glasses, televisions, laptops, and audio equipment.
It's unclear what measures, if any, Nintendo is taking to replace broken Wii straps. According to one Internet blogger, at least one Wii owner managed to finagle a free replacement strap from Nintendo. A blogger for Inside the Vibe has posted an e-mail he received from Nintendo technical support in response to his broken Wii strap that stated, "...since you're a My Nintendo member, I have a replacement wrist strap on the way out to you by UPS."
Nintendo has not yet responded to repeated requests for the company's policy on replacing broken Wii straps.
This isn't the first time new Nintendo hardware has met with problems. Earlier this year, breaks on the hinges of DS Lites were reported by gamers. Nintendo confirmed that breaks had appeared in "less than .02 percent" of the units, but the damage was merely cosmetic and the units worked fine.