The Nintendo WiiU has not been on the market for an entire year and the future of Nintendo’s eighth generation console already seems to be in question. Several issues including the feud between Nintendo and EA have caused WiiU to lose franchises such as Battlefield 3 and 4, Mirror’s Edge 2, Dragon Age, FIFA (at least for this year) and NBA Live . Electronic Arts COO Peter Moore confirmed that nothing is in development for the WiiU and that the system itself has been a “disappointment”. Although EA’s discontent likely stems from a past desire to build the base of Nintendo’s online services off of their own Origin service, other developers like Activision and even Ubisoft (who has arguably been the most supportive of any third party developer) seem to have lost some faith in Nintendo.
The WiiU itself seems to be lost in between two consoles generations, not quite fitting in anywhere. Recent releases for the 360 and PS3 such as Remember Me, Metro: Last Light, Resident Evil 6 or even the upcoming GTA V, Saints Row IV, Castlevania and Mad Max are nowhere to be found on the WiiU. So called “next gen” games such as the aforementioned Battlefield 4, Destiny, Thief, The Division (hugely anticipated here in theGamePad360 office), The Dying Light and Call of Duty: Ghosts are either not in development, not in consideration or on the fence.
Nintendo has struggled with third party developers for many years. Unfortunately what the Big N doesn’t realize that in order to obtain third party support, they need to create a comfortable environment for developers to work with. This includes hardware as much as it includes developers relations. The most recent successful development environment seems to have been achieved by Sony with the PS4. Learning from their past difficulty with developers and the infamous Cell processor Sony is trying to give developers exactly what they want. Sony knows happy developers will provide the necessary games to sell the system. Nintendo would rather restrict their console, creating it so that it is on par or slightly better with the current dying generation of consoles. Any technical benefits the WiiU had were hampered by Nintendo’s own decisions. For instance, a multicore POWER architecture CPU with some POWER7 functions hampered by abysmal clock speed. A capable GPGPU restricted in function because it has to compensate for the CPU. 2GB of RAM with more devoted solely to the OS than necessary. Nintendo choose instead to “dazzle” developers with the functionality of the WiiU pad hoping that devoting the majority of the funds invested in the WiiU to the Gamepad would work as a business strategy.
Sony hardware-wise may have gone a bit far with the PS4 but managed to receive positive feedback from developers because they choose to fulfill the developer needs.
“Personally, as a developer, the standout feature is the ease of which we should be able to develop for this new system compared to previous generations of console machines, which have slowed fast paced and iterative development.” James Brooksby from Born Ready Games
Nintendo gamers are always eager to say hardware specifications don’t make the game. This is entirely true, look at games like Skyward Sword, which has a gorgeous art direction and takes advantage of the Wii’s ancient hardware. However, the importance of hardware is the ease that it gives developers. The PS4’s accessible PC like architecture, powerful GPU and speedy RAM not be what makes the the awesome games we love, but it’s what they run on. Game developers, like id’s John Carmack and Crytek’s Tiago Sousa have public talked about their pleasure with the PS4.
Carmack said. “I can’t speak freely about PS4, but now that some specs have been made public, I can say that Sony made wise engineering choices.”
“Warframe supported 64-bit and DirectX 11 for a long time, and there’s a lot of commonality in that sort of architecture with what they’re doing on PS4. They’ve got a lot of cores on there, so, I was every surprised how fast we got up and running – I think Sony was as well. In three months time, that’s a testament to how developer-friendly this version of PlayStation is. It’s absolutely awesome. What surprised me most is how kick-ass the GPU is – the graphics are super, super high-end,” said Steve Sinclair from Digital Extreme.
Next gen, Nintendo needs to value hardware more because it help them with their own first party games, and will also erase the possibly of developers using power as an excuse to remove games or game engines. Not only is Sony playing the hardware game this generation but Microsoft is as well. The Xbox One boasts an eight core CPU and well as an AMD GPU. Additionally it boasts 5GB of RAM devoted to gaming. Although not as powerful as the PS4, the Xbox One is in the same league. Not having the WiiU close enough is a mistake for which Nintendo underestimated the consequences.In a few years, Nintendo will need to have hardware powerful enough that it does not limit the developers creativity and makes their job easier. While it may be too late for the WiiU, Nintendo and Nintendo fans should be aware of this reality. Instead, many Nintendo fans take the flawed stance that third party games are not what a Nintendo console is for. Contrary to this belief, a console’s purpose is to play both first and third party games. This is why fans, like myself who prefer or are only able to own one home console at a time may choose to look elsewhere. The next Nintendo console (which should be announced as early as 2016) needs to play the power game. Just enough so that Nintendo has a console that is sustainable, powerful enough to handle third party games and engines, developer friendly and cost effective. It might seem difficult but it’s been done before and it’s what Nintendo needs to do if they want to succeed more easily in the industry. In 2011, Nintendo talked a lot about bringing back “core gamers”. Core gamers are the audience that sustains a company like Nintendo or Sony because they purchase games regularly. In order to bring in as many core gamers as possible in their next console, Nintendo needs to have the right mindset commercially and and a first party developer, but most importantly… they need to start playing with power again.
credit to Eurogamer and VG24/7 for quotes