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This just in….on the Wii?

Earlier today, the wire services reported Nintendo had partnered with the Associated Press to provide an online news service through the Wii gaming platform.  Network connected Wii consoles will be able to access a free news channel through an Opera Web Browser.  As part of a 2 year multimedia distribution contract, the free news channel (there are no plans for it to be ad-supported at this time) will provide content from AP in multiple languages including French, English, Spanish and German. Additional Japanese language news will be provided by Goo, a Japanese news company.

The planned interface for the news is a graphic map.  Users will be able to navigate around the map to find regional news, and can zoom in and out to expand focus, all using the Wii’s innovative motion sensing controller.

While most people get their daily dose of news from multiple sources, increasingly, online news is a significant daily source in the demographics ideal for gaming platforms. According to the Pew Internet Life Project 43% of people with home broadband connections get some form of news online.   A  Nov. 2006 poll found 35% of users under the age of 36 got some election news online, while 57% turned to television and only 18% looked at a newspaper. (Note: multiple answers were allowed in the survey)

The expansion of the Wii platform is both innovative and clever.   For Nintendo it expands the reach of the platform beyond “hard-core” gamers, particularly in desirable demographics like the under 36 year old group.  It also acts as a potential test-bed for making the gaming platform more of a combined media/entertainment device which seems to be the prevailing trend with gaming platforms.  (BluRay video options with Sony PS3 and  the IPTV efforts with Microsoft’s Xbox that plan to make internet TV content displayable on any TV being just one example).  

For the Associated Press, the deal provides an added channel to reach viewers which is notable given most online news is dominated first by the major networks (CNN, ABC etc) and second, by portals like Yahoo.

Since its introduction on Nov 19, the Wii has been a huge hit selling more than 1 million units in its first 2 months (according to market research group NPD).  Its easy to use and uncomplicated interface and controller has also made it popular with a wider demographic than traditional gaming platforms.While less technologically advanced then Sony’s competing PS3, the Wii’s innovative interface has won it rave critical and commercial review. 

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