Game-controller accidents force Nintendo to replace 3.2m straps

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The Independent Online

After scores of smashed television screens, broken lamps and dented walls, Nintendo has agreed to replace 3.2 million straps for its new Wii computer game controller.

The innovative, motion-sensitive remote control - nicknamed the Wiimote - can be used like a tennis racket, baseball bat or sword, depending on the game, and it has become the biggest selling point for the Wii in the cut-throat battle against Sony's new PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 from Microsoft.

But excitable users have found that the wrist strap is not strong enough and can break if they accidentally let go of the Wiimote, sending the device flying across the room.

Almost since the day the Wii went on sale in the US four weeks ago, the internet has been buzzing with tales of domestic accidents caused by the breaking strap. Dozens of videos on the teen networking site YouTube demonstrate the damage - and injuries - caused by flying Wiimotes; one user even set up a website, wiihaveaproblem.com, for victims to swap their stories.

Nintendo has already replaced its original strap design with a thicker, stronger version on new consoles, but agreed yesterday to replace the weaker straps on the 3.2 million consoles already shipped. The Jap-anese company did not set out the cost of the replacement plan, but analysts agreed it would run to several million dollars. The final cost will depend on how many users take up the option of a replacement.

"People tended to get a bit excited, especially while playing Wii sports, and in some cases the control would come loose from their hands," said Yasuhiro Minagawa, a Nintendo spokesman. "The new strap will be almost twice as thick."

Nintendo has also set out guidelines on how to keep a grip on the Wiimote and to use it safely. These include: "Give yourself plenty of room"; "Do not use excessive motion"; and "If you are having so much fun that you start perspiring, take a moment to dry your hands".

The motion-sensitive remote control has turned Nintendo's Wii from a likely also-ran in the battle for supremacy among a new generation of consoles, into the launch with the biggest buzz.

In the UK, Nintendo sold 50,000 Wii consoles in the first 12 hours after launch last week, and more than half a million were sold in its first two weeks in the US. It is expecting global sales of 4 million by the end of the year.

Separately, Nintendo also recalled 200,000 AC adapt-ers for its DS and DS Lite consoles in Japan yesterday. The company said the recall would not affect adapters overseas, and officials expected only a small impact on earnings.

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