Image: Wii
Nintendo's Wii gaming console features an unusual motion-sensing wireless controller that players can wield like a virtual tennis racket or weapon. Nintendo is warning gamers to take caution when swinging, however, after recent reports of strap-snapping carnage.
updated 12/7/2006 9:39:46 PM ET 2006-12-08T02:39:46

The maker of the new Wii video game consoles said Thursday it is investigating reports of problems with a strap that secures the machines' wandlike remote-controller to the player's wrist.

Players hold the Wii's signature remote to mimic the motions of a tennis racket, golf club or sword, depending on the game.

At least two Web sites have been set up to collect photos that purportedly show damage — such as broken glass and TVs — resulting from the strap coming off players as they swung around the controller, at times causing the remote to fly out of their hands.

"Some people are getting a lot more excited than we'd expected," Nintendo Co. President Satoru Iwata said. "We need to better communicate to people how to deal with Wii as a new form of entertainment."

Nintendo is hoping the ease of the controls will draw a new generation of players as the maker of the Pokemon and Super Mario games is locked in a fierce three-way battle with Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360.

The company has not decided on any specific measures to change the strap, Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said.

Iwata also said Nintendo may raise its sales target for the Wii, which is selling out at retailers since it went on sale in recent weeks in the U.S. and Japan.

He said he first wants to see how Christmas sales go before revising Nintendo's sales target of 6 million Wii consoles by the end of March.

"I'm not ruling that out entirely, but it's premature to say it now," Iwata said at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Tokyo.

Nintendo has delivered more machines so far to consumers than Sony has, partly because of Sony's production problems.

Nintendo has shipped about 400,000 Wii machines in Japan and more than 600,000 in North America. The machine went on sale Thursday in Australia and is set to go on sale Friday in Europe.

Sony readied just 100,000 PS3 machines for the Japanese launch and 400,000 consoles for its U.S. debut. Its European launch has been pushed back until March.

Sony has promised 2 million PS3s worldwide by the end of the year, while Nintendo is targeting 4 million Wii units during the same period.

Both Sony and Nintendo project selling 6 million by the end of March. Microsoft, which launched the Xbox 360 a year ago, expects to sell more than 10 million systems by the end of 2006.

Selling machines in high volumes is crucial in the gaming business because hot-selling formats attract software companies to make more games, which in turn boost console sales.

Sony's previous generation consoles commanded 70 percent of the global market, with more than 200 million PlayStation series machines sold worldwide over the years.

But Iwata said Nintendo wasn't competing against Sony and would rather reach out to novice players, older people and others new to games.

Analysts say the novel controller helps Wii appeal to inexperienced players and has a price advantage at $250 — about half the cost of a low-end PS3 and $50 less than the cheapest Xbox 360. The top PS3 costs $600.

The analysts expect Wii to mount a serious challenge to Sony, although the verdict on next-generation machines is still out for a couple of years.

Sony is expecting to rack up $1.7 billion in red ink in its game unit for the fiscal year ending March 2007, much of it in PS3 startup costs. Nintendo is forecasting profit of $845 million for the fiscal year, as Wii buoys earnings in the second half.

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