Flying Wiimotes, broken straps mean Nintendo succeeded

I think everyone and their Nintendog has weighed in on the Wiimote strap by now. I know I’ve posted about it twice. Does it break easily? Is it user error? Has the Internet once again taken one or two freak accidents (or staged events) and made them into a “widespread problem?” All great questions, but I want to know what the “broken strap” phenomena really means.

Here’s my take. Let’s assume the straps are legitimately breaking in normal use (which they are not). You have to ask yourself: Why? The cop out answer is a defect, but think harder Infendo. Nintendo play-tested this console to death. They had to. Because if the Wii fails in any way, you can expect this to be the last console Nintendo makes. Did a few straps come close to breaking or break altogether in testing? I’m certain they did. But, as is the case with the public, there were far fewer straps breaking than not. One strap breaks and gets on Joystiq or Kotaku in a YouTube video, and suddenly everyone is saying “hey, that strap sure looks like dental floss — maybe it’s defective!” Then people start breaking out the duct tape and all hell breaks loose.

But I didn’t set out tonight to bash anyone. What I set out to do is try and show that these flailing arms and sailing Wiimotes mean people are playing video games in entirely new ways; ways that they might not yet be “used to” or comfortable with, but are damn fun just the same. Hell, half the friends I’ve shown the Wii to ignored the strap altogether — mostly out of pride — and that’s after an incessant stream of warnings from the console itself (not to mention the manual that no one reads). I cringed, but everyone was having too much fun to stop it mid-bowl. Suffice to say, no broken controllers. Not even close.

This is going to sound insane, but when a Wiimote sails into a wall, I think the higher ups at Nintendo light up another cigar. They know it’s yet another gamer who’s been totally consumed by their console. They know it’s someone who’s been lost in the world of Wii Sports, because let’s be honest, that’s the game responsible for all of these horror stories (unless we’re talking Dave, who might throw his Wiimote out of disgust for Monkey Ball). They know, as Miyamoto has intended, that they’ve let themselves escape and become a part of the game. They know they’ve succeeded. And I know they’re an imperfect corporation, but it’s so hard to fault them when I’m finally having fun with video games again.

So, while Iwata treads water with neutral statements like the one he made this morning about “looking into” the strap problem, you can bet Nintendo is smiling all the way to the bank. And they should. Barring the online experience, the Wii has delivered as promised.

Will they redo the strap? Probably. But it’s not because of some widespread problem. It’s for the freak accident that can take on a life of its own thanks to the volatility of the Internet. Because, when a Wiimote flies into a $2000 plasma, you can bet the very next thing that’s flying through the air is the console itself, right out a window. Nintendo knows it has a winner, but it ain’t no fool.