Google Street View and Maps Headed to Wii U in January

In the second half of November, Nintendo released the handheld Wii U console in North America, Europe, and Australia. At today's Nintendo Direct Conference in Japan, scheduled ahead of the console's December 8th release, company president Iwata-san announced that Wii U will feature Google Street View and Google Maps beginning in January, Engadget reports

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While some in the video game world expressed disappointment with the lack of fresh gaming news out of the Direct Conference, the inclusion of Google's mapping services is an indication of how Nintendo views Wii U as a console, entertainment system, and utility device. 

As CNet reported back in June, Nintendo confirmed Wii U partnerships with Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, and Amazon Instant Video to provide movies and TV shows to stream via Nintendo's Miiverse social network. The console also contains its own web browser, NFC, SpotPass functionality for background Wi-Fi updates, and a hardware button on the GamePad to sync with televisions via an application for gaming, entertainment, or web browsing.

Pricing for the console runs on the high-end at $299.99 for the basic model and $349.99 for the deluxe model with 32 GB internal memory. As CNet noted previously, Nintendo's entertainment offerings are far behind those offered on Microsoft's Xbox, and in light of the attractive holiday pricing plan Microsoft has given the Xbox 360 console, it will be interesting to see how Nintendo fares against Microsoft and Sony this holiday season and in the coming year. 

Microsoft is rumored to be at work on the next version of its Xbox console for a release late next year, so as Nintendo's console design evolves with Wii U, it is worth considering what the company's future plans may hold beyond its latest console.