Rabid video gamers could get some help keeping in touch with the outside world this weekend as Nintendo Co. launches an online news service through its popular Wii console.
The Wii News Channel, scheduled to debut Saturday, will primarily feature top news stories and photographs from The Associated Press.
Consoles with a broadband Internet connection and the Opera Web browser will be able to access the free news channel, which will offer AP news in multiple languages. Japanese-language news will come from a separate agency.
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There were no immediate plans to sell advertising space, said Perrin Kaplan, vice president for marketing at Nintendo's U.S. headquarters in Redmond.
News will be displayed through an interactive map, which users can navigate with the Wii's wireless controller, Kaplan said.
"The beauty of it is it zooms in and out of areas of the world," she said. "So if you really want to focus on regional news or national news versus international, you just blow up the map of the U.S."
The AP has a two-year contract to provide news and photos to Nintendo and would like to provide multimedia in the future, said Jane Seagrave, vice president of new media markets for the New York-based news cooperative.
"It's a very innovative new application of what we're doing generally, which is to try to get our content to new audiences on new platforms," Seagrave said.
The AP will supply news for the Wii in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and Swiss-German, Seagrave said.
The Japanese news company Goo will supply Nintendo's Japanese-language news, Kaplan said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
A recent report from the market research firm NPD Group said the Wii has sold 1.1 million units since it was released in the U.S. on Nov. 19, with 604,200 of those units sold in December.
"The Nintendo Wii demographic is definitely a wider demographic than your traditional hardcore gamer," said Billy Pidgeon, a video game industry analyst at IDC in New York. "It kind of makes sense for other types of content to be made available on the Wii."
Nintendo isn't the only company hoping to offer more from video game consoles with online connections.
The Xbox scored an early hit with its Xbox Live online gameplay system and has since begun offering more perks to Internet-connected users.