Nintendo announced today in a press release that many of the Wii's online functions would not be available when the system launches in North America on Sunday. The release reveals the forecast channel will debut on Dec. 20, while the news channel (with content from the Associated Press) will debut Jan. 27 of next year. The release also suggested that the Wii's Opera browser would not be available for download immediately, saying "more information about the availability of the browser will be released in the coming weeks."

Nintendo did confirm that 12 Virtual Console games would be available on launch day, including Donkey Kong, SimCity, Super Mario 64, Sonic the Hedgehog and Bomberman '93. The release also confirmed that new VC content would be released every Monday and established pricing for Genesis and Turbo-Grafx games at 800 points ($8) and 600 points ($6) respectively.

Of course what is perhaps the key online feature for a game console -- actual online game play -- still won't be available until next year, making a lot of this moot from a certain perspective. Still, this delay in more basic online functionality makes us wonder how well Nintendo's online strategy will be able to go from a practical standing start to keeping up with the big boys.

[Thanks Stephen]

[update: Original article said Jan. 17 for the News Channel launch. This has been fixed above.]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.