For Console Gamers, News is on the Wii

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Nintendo will be launching an online news service for the Wii console on Saturday, with the Associated Press signing a two-year agreement to provide top news stories and photos accessible through the Wii’s built-in Opera web browser. News will be organized on an interactive map that can be navigated with the Wiimote wireless, gesture-based controller.

While there are no immediate advertising plans, the news channel will be free and available in several languages, though Japanese news will be provided by another service.

The controller-map setup will allow users to find news based on geography just by moving their arm. “The beauty of it is it zooms in and out of areas of the world,” Perrin Kaplan, Nintendo’s marketing VP, told AP. “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.” According to Kaplan, there are currently no plans to sell ad space on the service.

The Nintendo Wii game console, with its innovative controller scheme and emphasis on game play instead of graphical processing power, is in hot competition with other “next gen” gaming systems like the Xbox 360 and the Sony PlayStation 3. The NPD marketing group estimates that Nintendo has sold 1.1 million units in the U.S.

Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aime said in a statement, “Our tremendous worldwide launch shows people, from experienced players to non-players, are hungry for the kinds of entertainment only Wii provides.”

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