How much does Wii U’s power matter?

Every fan and critic wants to know how powerful the Wii U is and chances are we will never find out the specs for the Wii U. Nintendo are not interested in that conversation, they do not wish to compare their consoles to others. The most obvious thing to deduce from that, and from all the stories we keep hearing, is that the Wii U is going to be a rather humble machine. We cannot expect it to be 2 or 3 times the power of the current next-gen console, but it will be capable of at least a bit more.

The big worry for future Wii U owners, and Nintendo, is 3rd party AAA titles 3 or 4 years down the line. Will they be so advanced that Wii U ports are notably inferior, repeating the Wii’s history of unpopular ports and the eventual end of big 3rd party games being ported? The next PS and Xbox will be capable of far more to Nintendos console, and clearly many developers are torn over what that means for their involvement with Nintendo.

Here’s a few basic points to consider before I bang on…

  • The Wii U is cheaper to work with.
  • Development times will be shorter.
  • Nintendo are offering great deals to work on Wii U, they have been described as too good to ignore by some.
  • 3rd party support is looking strong enough to encourage others to jump on the Wii U bandwagon.

But….

  • Many companies prefer working with the more powerful tech…
  • They tend to be the ones making the blockbuster hits Nintendo always misses out on.
  • Microsoft and Sony get their way with 3rd party publishers much easier.

WHAT COULD NINTENDOS STRATEGY BE?

Turn up thinking you’re big and they’ll just whip out Mario Kart and show you right up!

Nintendo aren’t dumb, and here’s how I think they are playing it: The Wii U will graphically be on top for about a year and during this time we already know many great 3rd party titles will come thick and fast, they look better than the competitions versions and are targeting the competitions demographic. During this time however exclusive titles we expect on a Nintendo console are going to be sparse. Could it be those console-shifting exclusives like Mario Kart and Smash Bros, are purposefully being saved for when the new Xbox and PS come onto the market?

There’s a great chance here to knock the wind right out of their sales the moment the competition is just getting going.  Graphics really don’t matter squat when you’re playing a Nintendo ‘must have.’ If Nintendo manage to stumble the sales of their rivals because everyone is off buying a Wii U to play Mario Kart, it’s going to take all that longer for 3rd party support to wane. They will stay where console sales are strong. The less they wander the longer it takes them to start regularly making games that the Wii U can’t handle without significant changes resulting in them not bothering to port them. Considering development times these days Nintendo might be lucky enough to slow things down so they are close to launching the next console as the Wii U starts losing them in a big way. Clearly they must avoid repeating the last 3 years of the Wiis life!

From a business angle Nintendo seem perfectly justified in their direction as well. PS and XBox are just making everything more expensive for everyone, from the development to the sale, there’s more power the more time things take. Then there’s the P2P BS. Nintendo is offering everyone from production to consumption something cheaper different more profitable and customer friendly. It’s the perfect pitch, as it was for the Wii, just with some key improvements.

THE OBVIOUS ADVANTAGES

  • As I have alluded to the Wii U will be the first next-gen console out of the gate. It’s a major advantage that could easily negate and perceived problems, so long as the game people want turn up early

Nintendo literally has so many IPs it doesn’t know what to do with them. You bet Sony and Microsoft are jealous.

  • The other ace in the hole as always is Nintendos long list of popular exclusives, provided they make them and don’t meander on silly novelty titles like Nintendoland. Those exclusives and of course Mario is exactly why even if they fall into a distant 3rd Nintendo will stay afloat.

                                                            THE AGE OLD IDEOLOGY

When you look back, Nintendo has only for a few brief times held the crown for ‘most powerful console.’ Nintendos handheld have always been technologically inferior to the competition, sometimes by an enormous margin and it has never mattered. The PSP is only handheld to have ever been close to a rival and as we know, it was trounced. With less, people so often do much more. Fun, quality or originality do not have much of a visual standard and Nintendo know it. Nintendo always try to get more from less, it’s not cheap it is how they challenge themselves to innovate, clearly it’s a good thing. So from what we know the Wii U humble capacity is absolutely in the spirit of Nintendos belief system and it’s certainly not a radical or radically stupid idea.

WarioWare proves graphics have nothing to do with fun.

Nintendo unlike far too many focus on gameplay. It is a general rule at Nintendo that everything must come from good gameplay ideas and preferably be something different, you then build its characters, stories sounds and names as to what best bits the game. Fun and originality come before everything else. It’s resulted in them creating more gaming genres and standards in existing genres than any other company. We all know everyone steals Nintendos ideas. Who else is going to do it when the world is busy doing the same thing over and over again just trying to make it prettier. It is in fact a cop-out to obsess over visuals. Very few did anything new or anything that aged well with a drive for photo-realism.

Realistic games age badly, but Windwakers berated visuals have aged amazingly well. 10 years on, it was time better spent.

 

 

YER BUT

The crying shame is that with everyone recognising Nintendo as gaming artisans, it is the one company more than anyone else we want to see do the realistic stuff.  You want that rare mix of amazing visuals and 99% glitch-free quality gameplay. Heck you want to see what can be done with the tech when someone isn’t just trying to be realistic. It’s why fans liked Rare so much and why we like Retro now, because they push the envelope on top of meeting Nintendos gaming standards. Fans aren’t exactly in sync with Nintendos philosophy and they know it; Retro is in effect their compensation to us! People are happy with the simple, but they want the cutting edge visuals as well, I do, and frankly I’d rather not buy 2 consoles, but most people will, and it was very easy to people to forget about their Wii’s, and the Wii U does look like it could easily repeat history. Clearly Nintendo don’t care about offering people the one and only console they need bother with.

No one could deny the Metroid Prime Series pushed the GC & Wii’s limitations. All 3 games remain remarkable examples of attention to detail. When Nintendo go big on ‘mature’ visuals they so get it right!

AT THE END OF THE DAY

Nintendo can stand by what they believe as firmly as they want, the truth is with a lack of visual clout the Wii U will become everyone’s 2nd console. The downpours in criticism for the Wii U right now are only going to become torrential, but being first out of the gate makes life pretty easy for the Wii U. If sales are great and game release timed right it really could be a right nightmare for the competition. Still it mearly a case of which one will catch up and Nintendo should brace for the possibility the Wii U could have a shorter than normal shelf life. 

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