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On Wii News Channel

January 28, 2007 ・ Blog

My, my, Nintendo sure makes dry, worthy things a pleasure to use. On Friday, its Wii console saw the release of Nintendo’s Wii News Channel, an application that displays Associated Press news stories. It joins the Forecast Channel, which was made available in December.

Both use a 3D globe to display location-specific information, and both are infused with dozens of little playful touches, whether it’s the sound of rain when you view the weather at a rainy location, or the way the words in news stories rearrange themselves when you zoom the text in and out.

It’s the globe display that’s the big draw, though. Spun with a quick twitch of the Wii Remote and stopped with a press of the A button, I keep finding myself aimlessly browsing weather systems of places I’d never considered and international stories I’d normally probably overlook. I mean, I never thought I’d spend so long monitoring the temperature in Yellowknife. You know, I think that astronaut was onto something with that “whole earth” thing.

But while it might be good for some kind of democracy in news consumption, one area in which the news channel falls down a little is in prioritising stories. There’s little sense of the most significant things going on when they’re arranged by location. There is an alternative view, which breaks stories up into sections - international, regional, sports, etc. - but these don’t seem prioritised either.

Course, the Wii News Channel is also rather mediated by the fact that it’s comprised of content from the American-centric Associated Press. Stories are represented on the globe by pieces of paper fixed to their locations. As you zoom in and out, the papers arrange themselves by smoothly moving into piles - particularly intensely newsy areas (Washington, of course) are represented by great, tall stacks.

However, the globe view lays such bias bare. Yesterday, the entire African continent had just one story attached to it - and that was in South Africa.

The bottom line is that the experience is great. Apparently, Nintendo will update the channel later this year with a greater regional focus, so perhaps we can expect a better service to accompany this wonderfully engaging way of using it.