Class Action Lawsuit Adds to Nintendo’s Wii Woes

A law firm has filed a class action suit against Nintendo on behalf of owners of the new Wii gaming console for selling remotes with inadequate wrist straps.

San Francisco-based Green Welling filed the lawsuit against Nintendo of America in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington just days after Nintendo pledged to replace all defective parts through a recall of 3.2 million of the straps.

The law firm said Nintendo’s “failure to include a remote that is free from defects is in breach of its own product warranty.” The action seeks an injunction requiring Nintendo to correct the defect in the Wii remotes and provide those who bought the console the option of a refund or replacement.

Nintendo responded to the suit in a statement, saying the action was “completely without merit.”

“Nintendo has a long tradition of delivering high-quality products and excellent customer service, and we take all reports from our customers seriously,” the Japan-based company said. “At the time we became aware of the lawsuit, we had already taken appropriate steps to reinforce with consumers the proper use of the Wii Remote and had made stronger replacement wrist straps available. This suit has had no effect on those efforts.”

The Fever

The Wii is this holiday season’s winner in terms of sales and buzz, though much of it has been because of the issues surrounding the gaming console’s unique remote operations, which encourage users to actively simulate the actions in many games.

Nearly a half-million Wii consoles were sold in its first two weeks on the market, according to data from NPD Group, and Nintendo has predicted it would ship 4 million Wiis to the U.S. and Canada by the end of the year.

Whereas Sony’s PlayStation 3 appeals more to hard-core gamers willing to pay higher prices, the relatively economical Wii and the innovative remote gaming controller have helped it generate its own buzz.

Still, the innovations have not been without their problems. Nintendo is already facing a patent lawsuit from Interlink Electronics, which claims Nintendo infringed on a patent it won a year ago for a trigger-operated electronic device that can be operated with a pointer sensor.

Meanwhile, shortly after the Wii hit shelves, reports began to surface of problems with the remote straps, as some users say remotes flew off and struck objects when the straps failed.

Other reports have involved users suffering self-inflicted injuries because of the sometimes stressful and repetitive motions involved with using the remotes.

As those reports mounted, Nintendo voluntarily contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to institute the recall. Owners of the devices can apply online to have stronger replacement straps sent to them.

Hands-On Fun

So far, the Wii setbacks haven’t damaged sales or the company’s reputation. Because the controller, sometimes called the Wiimote, is a new innovation, consumers are likely to cut Nintendo some slack on the design.

In fact, all the attention the Wii is receiving may even help build demand for the device, with its appeal to casual gamers, potentially opening up a larger market for Nintendo to tap into.

Wii will also likely benefit from word-of-mouth recommendations because of the immersive nature of the active gaming play, JupiterResearch analyst Michael Gartenberg said.

“I think the Wii is a pretty big breakthrough for digital entertainment,” Gartenberg claimed. “The challenge will be getting enough titles that embrace the new paradigm and getting the controller into the hands of consumers.”

For its part, the firm that filed the suit, Green Welling, has had success in representing consumers against corporations in the past for defective products. For instance, it won a $44 million settlement for DirecTV subscribers after they were unable to receive some programming. The firm has also secured multi-million dollar settlements from telephone companies and drug makers in various actions.

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