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Originally published Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Wii gamers to get online news service

Rabid video gamers could get some help keeping in touch with the outside world this weekend as Nintendo launches an online news service...

The Associated Press

Rabid video gamers could get some help keeping in touch with the outside world this weekend as Nintendo 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.

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 Wii has been a surprise hit for Nintendo as it competes with Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 consoles.

A recent report from 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 last month.

Nintendo isn't the only company hoping to offer more from its video-game console with online connections.

The Xbox scored an early hit with its Xbox Live online game-play system, and has since begun offering more perks to Internet-connected users.

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