March 9, 2000 1:20 PM PST

Nintendo offers glove to prevent joystick injuries

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Nintendo has agreed to provide protective sports gloves to owners of the "Mario Party" game, after receiving numerous reports of children being injured playing the game.

Nintendo's agreement to offer the gloves settles a complaint from the New York Attorney General's office, which had heard from parents of children who had suffered cuts, punctures, blisters and friction burns on their hands because of the intense joystick movements some portions of the multiplayer N64 game require.

"One kid got a tetanus shot," said Christi Pritchard, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

"The alarming thing was how little time some of these children spent playing the game before they were injured," Pritchard said. "One parent said their child had been playing the game for 15 to 20 minutes when they got a second-degree burn."

Maybe Nintendo should "ship only to colder climates," quipped Richard Doherty, president of Envisioneering Group.

Nintendo representatives could not be reached for comment. The recorded message on the company's "Mario Party" hotline, however, recommends that players avoid injuries simply by manipulating the joystick with their thumb and forefinger rather than the palm of the hand.

The potentially embarrassing development comes at a critical time for Nintendo, as the company faces renewed competition from Sony and its new PlayStation 2 console, Microsoft's upcoming "X-Box" gaming device--which chairman Bill Gates will provide more details on tomorrow--and Sega's Dreamcast.

Under the settlement, Nintendo agreed to provide four sets of sports gloves to each "Mario Party" owner who sends in a request. The rather elaborate proof-of-purchase requirements are detailed at (800) 521-0900.

As of December 1999, about 1.15 million copies of "Mario Party" had been sold in the United States, according to the AG's office, which estimated the offer could cost Nintendo $80 million if every consumer takes advantage of it. The actual cost is expected to be much lower, however, as fewer than 100 parents have complained directly to Nintendo since the game went on the market a year ago.

News.com's Jim Davis also contributed to this report.

 

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