Critical Hit | Do Developers Need to Innovate on Nintendo's Wii U?

By Adam Riley 01.02.2013 9

Nintendo has somewhat of a bad reputation, which is odd, since nearly every developer spoken to over the years has fond childhood memories of the company and openly commends the very make-up of the various teams within for the work produced. However, when it comes to supporting new systems, there are always numerous stories full of excuses for why support is not forthcoming. The Cubed3 team shares some thoughts on the matter to see if using a lack of innovation should be good enough reason to leave current projects off Wii U completely.
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Adam Riley, Operations Director

Nintendo consoles always seem to get plenty of stick, no matter whatever the company does to rectify matters. Nintendo 64? Well, why did it keep with the cartridge medium when others transitioned to CD format? How about the GameCube, since that moved across to discs. Ah, well, it was a proprietary disc format and not capable of holding all the data required for large-scale games. Wii, perhaps? No, barely more powerful than a GameCube, aimed at the casual market, does not support HD, it would take too long to implement a worthy motion control setup, and so on. What can Nintendo do to appease developers unwilling to try something different?

Unfortunately, the excuses have been coming in thick and fast with Wii U already. 4A Games, developer of Metro: Last Light, stated that Wii U "has a horrible, slow CPU" and was no longer working on that version, instead focusing on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC instead. No Hitman: Absolution, no Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, no Metal Gear Rising: Revengence. Now there is also talk of Tomb Raider not coming purely on the basis of the developer only wanting to bring the game across if sufficient use of the GamePad is included, which there is no time for before release. What? Seriously?

Well, maybe next time I go looking for a car I will merely go for one where I use all the features. If it has anything extra that I have no time to make good use of then no, forget it; good old bus for me! In fact, how can I possibly write this text using anything other than Notepad. It would be a waste of time using something like Word if there is no time to utilise its functionality in an inventive manner before the deadline of this entire article! Sorry Microsoft, cannot be supporting Word this time. Maybe further down the line.

See how ridiculous it sounds? Then why do developers talk about how Wii U is a fantastic system and what great opportunities it offers, and then refuse to bring current games to it merely because of such whimsical excuses? Hopefully it is a mere case of developers not wanting to divert resources from current projects rather than steering clear of yet another Nintendo system as seen in the past. Far too many triple-A games have been criminally missing over the years for whatever reason. The time for change is now, innovative uses of the GamePad or not.

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Az Elias, Deputy Editor / Database Manager

I can understand many Nintendo fans' frustrations about the lack of Third Party software arriving on Wii U. However, I don't believe it is strictly Third Parties themselves that are to blame for not jumping right onboard with the system. Whenever asked why a particular multiplatform title is skipping Wii U, developers shake and stutter and convince everyone that Nintendo's innovative controller means they should only be creating unique titles designed for it. Of course, the Wii U GamePad has all the buttons needed for multiplatform titles to work, as already seen in a small selection of them that launched with the console. Therefore, why the silly excuses?

There are a number of reasons why Wii U is not getting a great deal of current multiplatform games. Any titles recently finished or in development right now, such as DmC, Metal Gear Rising, Tomb Raider, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, Crysis 3, BioShock Infinite and Dead Space 3, to name a few, are not going to have a realistic chance of ever being ported to Wii U since it is simply not feasible to move a project straight over to a brand new piece of hardware mid-development. Had the Wii U been readily available right when development started, then it is much more likely a version for Nintendo's system would have been made. The time, effort and financial aspects to even get a team together that could quickly and successfully get a Wii U version running are too great to make the idea practical. Not to mention the fact that the Wii U itself has not got off to a particularly great start, especially here in the UK where titles are selling in the hundreds, and in some cases, far less, and it can be understood why developers are deciding against Wii U. My gripe comes in the excuses put forward constantly of the need to innovate on Wii U, instead of being more honest about the actual reasons. On the other hand, though, perhaps they are staying on Nintendo's good side by not speaking the truth, leaving the door open for future Wii U projects.

It is up to Nintendo to really pull its weight now, and kick-start sales of the system down the line with its own First Party software and a much better marketing strategy. It also needs to deliver on its promise of getting Third Party titles that appeal to the core gamer, and it is not going to do that by sitting back and doing nothing. Nintendo needs to be working with Third Parties to ensure future multiplatform games also get made for Wii U, and if they need a small team to help make that happen, so be it. The next consoles from Sony and Microsoft will be arriving very soon, and Wii U will be missing out on more Third Party content again when that time comes, so either Nintendo really works hard with developers to keep up the support - whether it be stripped down ports of those next generation releases or originals designed with the Wii U in mind - or it resigns itself to another GameCube and attempts to keep Wii U afloat with its own internal teams' output.

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Rudy Lavaux, Review / Feature Writer

It is really annoying when seeing other consoles getting plenty of support right from the start, but when it comes to Nintendo, developers always seem to find excuses not to develop for it. Like, for example, the aforementioned common assumption that games made for Nintendo's platforms should absolutely take advantage of its unique features. Oh, really? Do they feel the need to develop every of their games for the PS Move or Kinect add-ons? The answer is no. When the PS3 came around, how many games were actually developed with the Sixaxis controller in mind? Very few, if memory serves correct; it's an idea that pretty much got quickly abandoned. Therefore, why, when it comes to Nintendo, should it be different?
 
In the days of the Wii, indeed, developing a hardcore game with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in mind may not have been the most obvious thing to do because of the limited amount of buttons and their layout reducing what could be done without resorting to waggling. Also, since the Classic Controller (PRO) wasn't sold with the console, there was no way to really count on the whole user base to own a Classic Controller to play a game. Add to this the limited graphical capabilities of the Wii, and it seems almost understandable that the Wii wouldn't get a lot of multiplatform projects.

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What about the Wii U? Technically, that console should be able to handle any of the games being released on the other current generation consoles, albeit with some decent tweaking given that it's a completely different piece of kit that requires a different approach at developing games to be fully taken advantage of. What about controller options? Well, not all consoles are sold with a Wii U Pro Controller either, so developers can't rely on that sole input solution. The GamePad has to be supported by all games, that much is a given, yet once holding the GamePad in-hand, it is quickly realised that, other than being obviously much larger than a Classic Controller, the button layout and overall feel is quite similar to any classic controller. Therefore, why not bring the other consoles' games to it? It's not necessary to build something that makes an excellent use of the touch screen, or anything like that. Loads of Nintendo DS games never made good use of the second screen, or didn't rely on the touch function at all, and played with the buttons instead... That didn't prevent a lot of them doing well in terms of sales.

It sounds like a too good of an excuse to be believable and there must obviously be another reason behind it. The excuse that only Nintendo games will sell is also irrelevant here. On the 3DS, Nintendo left some room for Third Party developers to have a set period so they could sell their products while Nintendo was taking its sweet time to prepare the bigger guns from its own catalogue of franchises. The ball was well and truly missed then. Now the situation is quite similar, and what do we get? Mostly ports of games released months prior on the other systems. Some of these games are absolutely excellent, no doubt, but the choices are quite odd as well...why Assassin's Creed III when most Nintendo players didn't touch on the previous episodes? Why Mass Effect 3 when the other two remain unavailable on a Nintendo system, especially when that specific game relies heavily on choices made in the previous episodes?

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Those games are excellent in their own right but make for bad choices to bring to the Wii U, months after their original release, when most players who would have been interested in a Wii U version have long since beaten the game on PC, PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. Additionally, it doesn't help that multiplatform games that do arrive on Wii U either won't get the same Collector's Edition that the others get or the game simply arrives later, like will apparently be the case with Aliens: Colonial Marines, which still hasn't been given a firm release date on Wii U, other than it will be "before the end of March."

It seems obvious that it's just a matter of money. The Wii U isn't the big phenomenon that Nintendo may have hoped it would be, coming out after the Wii that took the world by storm when it was released in 2006. However, isn't a console defined by its library of games? How can the Wii U sell if it doesn't get any games? Not developing games for it because "it's not selling too well" isn't going to help the situation. Good thing Nintendo made a good impression in the latest Nintendo Direct to reassure its legions of fans, because otherwise the Wii U's fate would have seemed much darker.

SirLink, Review / Feature Writer

After the news that yet another multiplatform title will miss the Wii U, the future for Third Party support for Nintendo's new system isn't looking too bright right now. One has to consider, though, that all these early 2013 games that aren't coming to the Wii U were in full development when the Wii U development kits weren't even finalised yet. Adapting to a new piece of hardware in the middle or even late stages of development to make a port is a quite risky move, especially when deadlines were already set by publishers who don't consider a Wii U port to be worthwhile. All this would be more understandable if gamers weren't fed extremely lame excuses. It's one thing to say that a lack of resources, time or knowledge about the hardware was the cause but using the Wii U GamePad, that's perfectly capable of delivering the same experience as other systems if the developers so choose, as a scapegoat is simply infuriating. Then again, these are just the early days; the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 started off incredibly slow too and the multiplatform games took well over a year to get going and even longer to really take off.

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The future is indeed what's most important here. Some multiplatform games not arriving on the Wii U early in its life will soon be forgotten if the support will be there in the years to come. Nintendo will certainly drive the install base with its own first party offerings and even some promising Third Party exclusives but that won't create an environment for multiplatform games. If Third Parties want the Wii U to be a viable platform in the future, a "wait and see" approach won't be enough. They will have to take risks and actually make the fanbase for their games. Anything else is a signal to gamers that the Wii U won't be a good platform if they want to play those games and Nintendo's own games will be the only ones to sell really well on the system, prompting third parties to fall back to the old excuse of "Only Nintendo games sell on Nintendo systems." It's a classic catch-22, slightly similar to the situation the PlayStation Vita is in right now. Publishers are waiting for the install base to increase substantially before really supporting the system but people won't be interested as long as there isn't a big and varied library of software available. It'll be very interesting to watch how Third Parties will react to Microsoft's and Sony's new systems, as the Wii U will already have a decent install base by the time they enter the market. Will they come up with similar excuses or happily support those platforms right away, despite them starting from scratch? That's what I'm really waiting to see.

Javier Jimenez, Staff Writer

I'm privileged to have actually worked in software development, on several high profile projects, including two video game projects. I've also studied software engineering academically and hold a Masters in the practice. Therefore, I speak from some small experience when I say there are two things you do not do in software development...

1.) Never add development tasks at the end of a project; just don't do it. Software development requires expertise, planning, designing, programming, testing, reprogramming, retesting, reprogramming, retes...and so it continues. It is especially unwise to take on something as big as porting an as-yet-unfinished project to an entirely new hardware platform, of which not all knowledge of the format is to hand. This is the kind of thing that delays shipment of a project as the development team, who should be finishing the project, is now reading up on new hardware specs, going over every line of code, making sure it works with the new hardware, testing, programming, retesting, reprog...and so on.

2.) Development costs money. Software is a commercial enterprise. It is done to garner profit. There is risk involved. Risk must be minimised to maximise potential profit. Therefore, why delay the release of software for systems with over 150 million customers, more if including PC, in order to sell the game to customers of a system that has yet to reach even 5 million users? Answer: it should not happen.

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The recent story that Crystal Dynamics is passing up the chance of a Tomb Raider U version is not surprising. However, it's not an indictment of the system either; it is mere financial reality.

A more realistic view is as Capcom recently stated that it is: "looking forward, not back so late ports are generally not on the table." That means don't worry about Wii U not getting every multiplatform game NOW. It's not realistic to hope Wii U will get every multiplatform game nearing the end development in 2013. It is realistic to see if developers support Wii U with projects in the future, though.

Therefore, Cubed3 now turns to you, the reader and asks: 'What is more important? Getting plenty of early ports of current games or waiting until developers get to grips with the Wii U system in order to produce fantastic new content further down the line?'

POLL: Do Developers Always Need to Take Full Advantage of System Features?

User Poll: Do Developers Always Need to Take Full Advantage of System Features?

No - I want old ports now to build my collection
No - upcoming games should be quickly ported across 'as is'
Yes - waiting for late, optimised ports is preferred
Yes - how long have they had dev kits? Stop being lazy and making excuses!
I don't want old ports; bring new content!

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Comments

"Well, maybe next time I go looking for a car I will merely go for one where I use all the features. If it has anything extra that I have no time to make good use of then no, forget it; good old bus for me! "

Oddly, that was the attitude amongst many in the 3DS's early life. Thats what a lot of potential buyers were saying.
"But I dont want 3D!" 
"It can be turned of"
"So whats the point of getting it then?"

Its a weird attitude, but it seems as some sort of glitch in the human brain.

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As pointed out above, how many of the games missing on Wii U were in development long before Wii U came out? Those games certainly grab attention, but those aren't the ones that need to be worried about not coming to the system.

kingdom (guest) 01.02.2013#3

LOLOLOLOL god word has so many unnecessary features, I could never possibly have the time to innovatively use all of them

I'd never thought of that before Adam...and I think you're right

Best I stick to what I understand right?

Wouldn't want to get confused

Honestly I would be happier with some of these titles ported "as it" with a basic map feature or something that's really simple to pop onto the GamePad. Or why not just not bother with the GamePad? Just use it for off-TV play. Simples!

I can understand what Javier is saying regarding the development overhead especially later on in development with these games, but even if it were a release a few months down the line or given to a secondary studio to work on (like some of these Wii U releases), at least Nintendo players won't miss out.

Wii U definitely needs these bigger names - GTA V, Crysis 3, Bioshock Infinite - all these titles are on the way, with no Wii U version in sight - it would certainly put off those going for a Wii U now.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Only thing thats really different is the touchscreen, so i dont see why they dont just release the game as it is like on other console, and then release the extra features as a patch later on, if its just time they need for just inovative features.... Isnt that why we have this whole system now of releasing patches and updates made possible for home consoles?

Guess I can understand those that only own Wii U getting annoyed at lack of multiplats, but this is the case for all Nintendo systems now. The Wii U has already missed 6 or 7 years worth of multiplat games anyway. Really, if you buy a Nintendo console now, you aren't buying it for multiplats; you're buying it for Nintendo games and exclusives unique to the system. With a PS3 I'll get my multiplats there and prefer to have devs make exclusive stuff on Wii U. Working on late ports isn't gonna get me to buy one. New and exclusive stuff is.

welshwuff said:
Only thing thats really different is the touchscreen, so i dont see why they dont just release the game as it is like on other console, and then release the extra features as a patch later on, if its just time they need for just inovative features.... Isnt that why we have this whole system now of releasing patches and updates made possible for home consoles?

A couple of contributing factors.

Like mentioned by a couple of us in the article, many of these games were already well into development and it's not easy to simply move your half-developed project to a brand new piece of hardware, getting it running, spending extra time and money. Especially when the majority of your project's sales will come from the PS3/360/PC.

Patches cost money.

Some ports the Wii U got were already completed projects. Much easier to work on the Wii U version once the final game is done. Batman, Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3. In ME3's case, it was outsourced to another dev. Not all companies can afford to do that, nor is it so easily possible to outsource an incomplete project to another dev somewhere else in the world.

Not saying it's impossible to get Wii U versions done at the same time as other versions, since they were, like Assassin's Creed 3. But not everyone can.

But as seen with Batman Wii U, they don't always turn out great, either. Batman Wii U is the worst of the 3 console versions.

Also, despite what people say, the Wii U is hard to develop for. Nintendo so much as admitted that itself a couple of days ago. It's the reason it's working with developers closely on projects now, so they can pass on info. It's also the reason Nintendo itself has not had many first party games out for the system. Nintendo itself has struggled to make its own games.

So I think third parties have come in for a bit more criticism than they deserve regarding Wii U.

( Edited 01.02.2013 21:42 by Azuardo )

Movingon (guest) 01.02.2013#7

Excuses? Time is limited, so is money, so is energy. If I can see my efforts pay off with few risks I'll invest.
A developer is not a cheerleader. Tough luck for Nintendo for digging themselves this hole. Good luck to them though, Wind Waker in HD seems like a great move.

Nintendo should use the funding from this development reshuffle to build studios who are primarily there to port other projects to Wii U. If Nintendo fit the bill, I'm sure publishers will say "why not?"

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

jb said:
Nintendo should use the funding from this development reshuffle to build studios who are primarily there to port other projects to Wii U. If Nintendo fit the bill, I'm sure publishers will say "why not?"

Been saying this since the beginning. If Nintendo wants games, they need to do something about it, not sit back and hope it happens. Bayonetta 2 should have been the first sign they were doing something right but then nothing.

Thankfully, they seem to have realised now, since they plan to work closely with devs to get their games running quickly and efficiently, and want to do more collabs. It's exactly what Nintendo needs to do and I hope they continue the effort.

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