Catching up with the Wii U


Until yesterday, it had been rather quiet on the Wii U front for a good nine months. Following a large helping of (badly presented) information at last year’s E3, the Wii U went stealth as Nintendo focussed on reversing the fortunes of the 3DS and the gaming press busied themselves with Nextboxes and Orbisi. I had hoped that Nintendo were using this down-time to devise a new name for the follow up to the Wii – Super Fami-Wii, the Satoru Box and the Wii Wii would’ve all been preferable – but it would seem that Wii U is here to stay.

The new console was back to making headlines this week, as word spread that Nintendo's next generation hardware is barely up to spec with the current. The following is taken directly from GamesIndustry.biz, who broke the story:

"No, it's not up to the same level as the PS3 or the 360," said one developer who's been working with the Wii U. What does that mean? "The graphics are just not as powerful," reiterated the source. This developer is not alone in their opinion. Another developer at a major company confirmed this point of view. "Yeah, that's true. It doesn't produce graphics as well as the PS3 or the 360," said the source. "There aren't as many shaders, it's not as capable. Sure, some things are better, mostly as a result of it being a more modern design. But overall the Wii U just can't quite keep up."

If these gobby developers are to be believed, then the first foray into the eighth generation may well be a step backwards, at least in visuals. Perhaps Nintendo will once again be content to have the least powerful home console of the big three, as dated hardware didn't exactly prevent the Wii from being a runaway success. Graphics are not the be all and end all, though I have always found the drop off in visuals from my PS3/360 to the Wii to be rather jarring, causing me to demote my white box to a party piece, reserved for drunken karaoke sessions and tennis elbow.

Either Satoru Iwata has tiny hands or that tablet controller is huge!

Of the three home console manufacturers, Nintendo is the only one who could possibly get away with a sideways move. A simple jump to HD for Mario, Zelda and other prominent franchises may prove enough to convince an audience raised on all things Nintendo to move over to the new platform, but it would run counter to Nintendo's claims that the Wii U would cater to the core gamer in ways the Wii never did. You can port all the Darksiders, Grand Theft Autos, Batmans and Call of Duties in the world, but that audience will not move away from Microsoft and Sony if the Wii U is unable to even match the 360 and PS3.

There would of course be advantages to having a less powerful machine, the most obvious being cost. A low RRP could offer an early advantage over Sony and Microsoft's next gen hardware, which are likely to come out of the gate with inflated price tags that’ll see the manufacturer losing money on each unit sold. Spiralling development costs are ravaging the industry, as developers strive for bigger, prettier but not necessarily better games that can potentially sink all but the biggest studios. If Nintendo are prepared to do away with the age old notion that a new generation must mean better graphics, perhaps developers will ease up a little, leading to more affordable games and more sustainable business model.

For the last decade, innovation as opposed to technological improvements has driven Nintendo’s business. Touch screens, motion controls and fully 3D, portable gaming have seen Nintendo dominate the market. Perhaps the tablet controller is the next in line. However, Sony appear well positioned to beat Nintendo to the punch with whispers of a similar set-up between the touch-screen enabled Vita, the PS3 and eventually the PS4. Tablet based magic may seem rather pedestrian before we know it.

Is the Wii U yet another example of Nintendo throwing convention to the wind, stressing innovation and discarding the traditional benchmarks of generational progress, or is it merely a case of Nintendo catching up with the seventh generation seven years too late, woefully under-equipped for the imminent push towards the next gen? I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Comments

  1. I'm interested to see how the Wuu does. Will Nintendo being Nintendo be enough to overcome the insane number of disadvantages this system is going to launch with?

    The casual gaming scene is ridiculously over saturated. For hardcore gaming, the Wuu isn't even as powerful as the Vita, and it's still going to have the same 6 main games as every Nintendo system, and it will take them 3 years to get all 6 of those games out. That toy tablet is just going to remind people how much they want an iPad. And it's Nintendo, so it will be internet retarded, in a world where sunglasses are about to go online.

    But Nintendo almost always wins, so who knows. If anyone can juggernaut their way through this many bad ideas, it's them.

    You know, I think the Vita is going to end up with a ton of developers in the end. They're going to be faced with learning the weird Wuu interface, or developing ultra-expensive ps4 and 720 games, or moving to 3D for the 3DS, and the Vita is going to be the only system left where they can use their existing assets and make relatively normal games.

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    1. The tablet really does look like a toy. It's not something I can see myself using for traditional, gaming experiences. Everything about the Wii U is confusing me at the moment. I hope Nintendo know what they are doing (I have far less confidence than I should).

      I hope you are right about the Vita. It will be a tough year or two before we get to the point where the Vita is really attractive to developers. It just needs to hold on until 2013/14..
      Cheers

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  2. I think the big issue with the Wii U's supposed lack of power is that once the PS3/new Xbox come out, the Wii U will once again be way behind in power and make it difficult for third-parties to make games across all three. And if it goes like it did this gen, Nintendo will be missing big third-party games again. Maybe it being first to market will help stop this from happening, but I'm not optimistic about that. Definitely excited to see this again though.

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    1. Good point. And Nintendo were really banging the third-party-support drum at E3. It just doesn't add up and I'm really struggling to see where exactly Nintendo are going with the Wii U. Hopefully it will all become a lot clearer at E3

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  3. If there's ever been a system to wait on, it's this one. I want to know exactly what Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft all have planned before I even think of buying anything from them. I'll throw this all out the window if Valve makes a console, then I'll probably just get their system day one and this for Nintendo games and be all set for next gen.

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    1. Definitely a lot of mystery and rumour surrounding the next wave of consoles. Chances are I'll be going with the PS4 relatively early on, though if its not backwards compatible then I'll want to wait until there are at least a handful of games i'm dying to play. I'll probably end up with Nintendo and MS' latest at some point, though I'm unlikely to be in any rush.

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  4. I have my doubts about the rumours surrounding the Wii-U, but if this one is true the system had better cost... like... 100 bucks. Why would I buy such an outdated system, which will probably get hardly any third party support, unless it's super cheap. It's a shame because Nintendo is a great developer

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    1. If it is as underpowered as these rumours suggest, it almost makes you wonder why Nintendo didnt just release the tablet as an add-on for the Wii, rather than building something new, but alreday dated, around it.

      Delete
  5. Daydream Drooler8 April 2012 at 02:37

    Personally I believe we are watching the fall of Nintendo, sure the Wii sold well but think about who bought it. those same people wont be running out to buy a Wii 1.5 and the gamers will be going for a one console future with how much everything will cost. a PS4 isn't gonna come out under $300 and it wont be a bad thing considering what we'll be getting but its steep enough for every gamer to consider which console they will pick up first.
    I wouldn't be surprised to see Nintendo go full handheld or just produce games rather than tech. it will be a sad day but I just don;t see Nintendo staying in the race by putting out tech like this

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    1. I agree that the transition from wii to wii U will be a difficult one. Its going to take a lot more than a tablet controller and Wii fit 1.5 to convince the bulk of the Wii audience to upgrade. It was the motion controls that made the Wii a global phenomenon and I just don't see what the selling point is for the Wii U, for either the core or casual audience.

      Nintendo have a pretty good track record and have earned the benefit of the doubt, but even still I'm pretty underwhelmed with what we know, or think we know about the Wii U so far.

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  6. Great article!
    If the Wii U can provide a place for original and innovative console games to be developed without the crazy budgets, which tend to cripple original thought, then that would be a great niche for Nintendo to occupy. But as others have mentioned the weird setup could put developers off.
    If Nintendo could just dump their obsession with crazy controllers (which still seems only superficially innovative) and produce some kind of Super Gamecube that'd be perfect.

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    1. Cheers. Nintendo have definitely done a great job of occupying niches in the past, niches that quickly turned into huge parts of the market!

      I doubt we'll be seeing a Super Gamecube any time soon!

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