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Staff Blog | Nintendo Wii U: Every System has a Learning Curve - It's Not the End of an Era

Every system has a learning curve; I feel that there are some concerns but its early and very much solid days for Nintendo Wii U.

The Wii U came under fire this week with studios homing in on certain areas of the system's infrastructure that might not perform up to scratch. The founder of Atari, Nolan K. Bushnell even feels that it might be the "end of an era" for the Japanese game maker.

Some of the initial launch selection available might be plagued with issues that take down the experience a notch, namely Mass Effect 3 or reports of slowdown in areas of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, but these niggles are expected from debut games.

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It's amusing to read through forums and video commentary across the internet proclaiming the Wii U's downfall in such a short space of time that it really goes to show how much more of an open community we are in this day and age. If there's one thing that Nintendo have proven in their illustrious history, it's the company's sustainability and how developers are pushed to get the best results.

The Nintendo Wii was, without a doubt, the weakest of the past generation. It lacked high-definition output, the GPU was fast becoming outdated, but studios persevered and Nintendo enthusiasts were treated some stellar games: Xenoblade, Pandora's Tower, Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword, Red Steel 2 and of course the sublime Super Mario Galaxy duo. These could have easily been on par with high definition brothers if cleaned up a little, with textures brought up to the right HD resolutions. We're not talking games that were just "good enough" for Wii and Nintendo players, but just fantastic experiences irrespective of platform.

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With the Wii U, the system may not be light-years ahead in its components, but there has been better thought this time round for future proofing and getting the most out of those teeny components efficiently.

Image for With more graphical memory on the Wii U, console developers are able to offload certain functions and share demanding tasks across both the CPU and GPU; however the speed of the CPU itself - core to the running and performance of the Wii U - has been questioned. But I still feel the despair in the air is very much premature.

People need to remember that some studios are just more capable, or perhaps better manned, than others - a poor looking title shouldn't necessarily reflect on the capabilities of a system, especially at launch.

On the flipside however, there hasn't been a worthy first-party benchmark for studios to aspire to on the Nintendo Wii U. Nintendo have been hesitant to show early cards - no public unveiling of a first-party title that makes the most out of the hardware just yet. New Super Mario Bros U. does look sublime in HD, as does the utterly charming Nintendo Land, but we've yet to see something ground-up from Nintendo themselves that one could say: "but what about this game?"

From third parties, Ubisoft's ZombiU and Rayman Legends are two ground-up Wii U games that highlight the console's early capabilities well. As a publisher with a good deal of resources and time spent on building the games, granted still within launch constraints, it shows what potential is there for more focused Wii U development.

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PC players inevitably get the best end of the stick though, coated in sticky candied ice-cream. Depending on your rig, games crafted for PC are bound to work and with higher end specs, produce the best and most visually effective result hands down.

Dealing with the Wii U surely isn't like fumbling around alien technology, or engaging in some far out particle physics whilst gagged and blindfolded. The Wii U is a pure gaming rig with components that developers have a principle understanding with. But between the PC, Xbox 360, PS3 and now Wii U, there are structural differences in how you go about optimising assets, working with game engines and balancing the load to make the most out of what you've got.

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When seeing a cross-platform title, regardless of system, there are always various factors to consider:

  • Priority:  Which system is the lead platform to develop on? Usually, but not always, there's a sole console that a studio might be better acquainted with. The other formats would be adapted versions and may not get as much refinement.

  • Engines: Certain developers may have engines/procedures that are more geared towards a certain system, especially with stellar franchises like Call of Duty where the core functionality is already fine-tuned for the Xbox 360, for example.

  • Time: How long has the studio had a system's development kit? PS3 and Xbox 360 tools have been worked on, refined and changed over years, whilst the Wii U is quite literally fresh on the scene. It may not be alien tech, but there's still time and experience needed to fully utilise the hardware and understand how to port projects across effectively.

  • Virgins: Is it the studio's first time working on a particular platform? There are bound to be stumbling blocks.

  • Human skill and resources: We're all human afterall, or so they say. Some work better with different system architectures; some may cope better with new hardware. One studio may employ 100 people that can be allocated across platforms; another might only have 10 that work on three or four.
Nintendo Wii U has been out for a week now and has already seen poked, prodded and jabbed on the internet. To have released a dev. kit, continually update it and come up with over twenty games from small and renowned studios is nothing to brush aside.

These titles have their fair share of criticisms from players and tech-heads already, but for a short scale development, trying to finish and port a game to Nintendo Wii U, it's a testament to studios on getting these key names ready to help the system establish a good start.

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I have some concerns, but given what studios have done with Nintendo hardware in the past, there is a lot of potential with the Wii U especially given the transition into high definition.

What do you feel about the Wii U's graphical situation?

Be sure to post your thoughts and join the discussion on "Anyone else disappointed with the Wii U graphics?" topic in the forums.

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this blog entry

This was a very interesting and thoughtful read. I'm one of the various C3ers who have voiced a lot of concerns over the 'potential' hardware issues. For me, the main worry is nothing to do with Nintendo's own plans and what they're games will do, but more how they set things up for third-party developers. By the time the other next generation consoles are out, will EA be churning out joke versions of games as they did for example with FIFA 13 on Wii? (which is actually a carbon copy of FIFA 12 plus updated shirts) - the biggest concern for me is that once that performance gap is created again, will that mean shoddy and less-than on-par third-party offerings will become the norm for Wii U? Nintendo also have a tradition of getting the best out of their systems for their own brands (Wind Waker, Mario Galaxy) while not really letting other developers in on their best tricks and techniques.

Once the Marios, Zeldas and Metroids are out on the Wii U, for me there's a good reason to own the system. I'll always be inherently fond of those series since I grew up with them, and I'd happily consider purchasing the console to be able to play them all in glorious HD and with Nintendo's new controller ideas. But while those remain MIA, the outlook isn't particularly promising. I'm already used to needing another console besides my Nintendo one to get the best experience of third-party games such as CoD and FIFA - what seems ridiculous to me is that Nintendo don't show much initiative to make their console the only system I need in my living-room.

I don't really worry for the future of the Wii U in terms of its actual entertainment value - as I said, once the Nintendo franchises start getting churned out, I'll be sold. But I just don't think they can afford to be in a situation where they're already getting negative comments from those who aren't within their circle.      

I'm very optimistic at this stage. What are the chances of Sony or Microsoft killing their systems off before probably this time 2014? That's two full years of Wii U getting most third party titles, developers will have more time to polish these games and hopefully soon Nintendo start to show us what they can do with it. Pikmin 3 alone should be nothing short of sublime. But that should be the very tip of a mammoth iceberg.

It always comes down to third party support though, and you would be naive to say the least if you think Nintendo are not going to sell a serious amount of these machines. Wii U looks like it has everything there to handle any major third party games over the coming few years, and if the right people handle them post-development they should perform well on the market.

My only and biggest concern is two, three years down the line. Nintendo have left themselves wide open to being left behind, again. When the new Playstation and Xbox come out it could spell another early demise. But frankly the entire industry is in a peculiar place right now. The new App market, digital market, it's very hard to say exactly what is coming next from either company, and hard to predict the gravity of this concern.

Right now I'll bet my left nut that Wii U is going to have a brilliant two years, similar (though slightly reduced, in most likelihood) Wii sales and at this early stage it looks like it'll have a much better roster from other developers. I can't wait to get mine Smilie

Barry Lewis < nin10do :: General Writer :: Feature Writer :: Fountain of Industry Statistics >
"We're mentalist psychic Scots, which means we can read your mind. If you're lying, your head explodes and we laugh."

I think it's funny that people are simultaneously saying Wii U will fail because
A) It's got to compete with systems (720/PS4) that will presumably be the most powerful on the market
B) Mobile devices (devices that are generally nowhere near as powerful)


In reality it's not actually as simple as that, but I still find it amusing to think about.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I'm very optimistic at this stage. What are the chances of Sony or Microsoft killing their systems off before probably this time 2014?

I'd agree - definitely mid to end 2014 at the earliest for the new Sony/Microsoft systems, and hopefully in that time Nintendo will be able to rack up decent support.

That's the main issue for me - these mulitplatform titles shouldn't miss out on Wii U this time next year. Launch, I can understand, but definitely most third party efforts should also be considered for Wii U.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

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