Friday’s European launch of Nintendo’s Wii games console has been overshadowed by a series of alleged accidents in which the machine’s innovative remote controller has flown out of “over-enthusiastic” gamers’ hands and smashed their TV screens.
The news comes as Nintendo announced global Wii shipments of 1m units, and immediate sell-outs as machines hit shops in the US and Japan. The company said it still aimed to sell 4m units worldwide by December 31.
Satoru Iwata, Nintendo’s president, on Thursday hinted that, in light of strong early sales, it might revise its full-year earnings forecast upward after the holiday season shopping period.
The company’s estimate of Y170bn ($1.48bn) in pre-tax profits for the year ending March 2007 is viewed as too conservative by analysts, whose consensus puts the likely figure at Y181bn.
Analysts said on Thursday the Wii launch appeared to have gone more smoothly than Sony’s launch of the PlayStation3.
Production problems have dogged Sony’s “make or break” console.
Some industry observers believe that, since its US launch, Sony has shipped only half the 400,000 units the company was targeting by this stage.
Mr Iwata hopes that, rather than competing with Sony’s technically superior machine, the Wii will attract family members who would not normally play video games.
“We are not fighting against other companies – we are fighting against ignorance of video games,” Mr Iwata said.
But the company admitted it might have underestimated the potential wear-and-tear on the Wii remote – a motion-sensitive controller that makes video game playing a more physical activity.
In combination with sports simulator software, the controller allows users to mimic swinging a golf club, launching a bowling ball or flailing a boxer’s fist.
Mr Iwata said that, following internet reports of a dozen alleged incidents of wrist straps breaking on the controllers and TV screens being damaged – mainly posted by US users of the Wii – the company had launched an internal investigation. Despite rigorous pre-launch testing of the durability of a strap designed to keep the Wii controller in its owners’ hands, gamers had swung it “more excitedly than our expectations”.
Sitting at Mr Iwata’s side, Shigeru Miyamoto, the creative brain behind the Mario and Zelda games series, said Nintendo’s software division was “looking at ways to make players calm down”.
Separately, Nintendo’s American division e-mailed popular US gaming websites to reiterate its safety guidelines for using the Wii’s motion sensitive controller. advising that moist hands should be dried.
“Excessive motion may cause you to let go of the remote and may break the wrist strap.”
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