Nintendo has started offering a new service that feeds national and international news headlines to its recently launched Wii console.

The Wii News Channel went live in Japan today, a day ahead of its expected launch. The company had previously said it would be available in both Japan and the US on Saturday, and the UK launch date is said to be imminent.

In Japan the service carries news stories from a variety of sources through a feed from Internet portal Goo. In the US the news will be provided by the Associated Press.

The service is accessible from the Wii's main menu after a software refresh. Nintendo also offers a web browser for download, and an internet connection is needed to use the service. A button for the Wii news channel sits alongside another for a companion weather service which provides access forecasts and other data.

The services are part of Nintendo's attempt to make the Wii about more than just gaming. The company hopes to expand the gaming market, in part by offering useful services that encourage people to switch on their console on more frequently.

Nintendo sold 3.2 million Wii consoles worldwide in the last two months of 2006, with 200,000 selling in the UK over the Christmas period.