Nintendo to replace 3.2 million Wii straps

In an effort to duck criticism that its remote controllers can fly across the room when wrist straps break, Nintendo Co. Ltd. is offering free replacements for that part of its new Wii video gaming console.

Carefully avoiding the term “recall,” Nintendo made the move before any regulatory agency could step in. The replacement could affect up to 3.2 million straps, according to the Associated Press. Nintendo did not return calls for comment.

Shortly after Wii consoles began selling on Nov. 20, North American customers began reporting failures of the strap that holds Nintendo’s wireless gaming controls to players’ wrists. A key difference between Wii and its rivals, the Microsoft Corp. Xbox 360 and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. PlayStation 3, is that players can use Nintendo’s wireless remote to, for instance, virtually roll bowling balls or swat tennis balls.

“We have received some reports that when consumers swing the Wii Remote with the original version of the wrist-strap using excessive force and accidentally let go, the cord connecting the controller to the wrist strap can break, potentially causing the Wii Remote to strike bystanders or objects,” Nintendo said in a statement on its Web site.

“For example, in Wii Sports bowling, the proper way to let go of the ball while bowling is to release the “B” button on the Wii Remote—DO NOT LET GO OF THE Wii REMOTE ITSELF. If you are having so much fun that you start perspiring, take a moment to dry your hands.” Nintendo’s offer does not affect all of its Wii consoles, as the company had already begun shipping them with an improved strap by early December, the company said. Nintendo posted a photo of the difference between the two versions at its Web site.

Nintendo plans to begin shipping the replacement straps by Dec. 21, and expects customers to receive them within five to nine days, the company said. Customer who have an original version of the part can request a free replacement through Nintendo’s site.

The company added this new warning to a list of possible dangers for Wii users. Since the Wii has added a physical dimension to virtual games, many of the precautions could relate to any real-world sport. For instance, Nintendo warns Wii users to clear rooms of furniture before swinging the controller, and to beware of repetitive motion injuries and of console and TV screen damage.

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