WiiU and Why the Power Game Should Have Mattered to Nintendo

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


8 thoughts on “WiiU and Why the Power Game Should Have Mattered to Nintendo

  1. It’s basically true and understandable that the lack of performance makes so many direct 3rd party ports close to impossible in some cases. Having more power would make direct porting to increase the library quite viable. But game fun-factor value is still solely on the devs shoulder. We have vastly more than enough computer performance to create mind blowing games, as the last several generations have proved over and over again, if devs were willing to be creative. If Nintnedo didn’t do what they do, the next gen would still just be bog standard dual analogue controlling. I wouldn’t call the dual analogues that PS4 and X1 will likely be primarily relegated (yet again) as next gen. Sony and Microsoft are still following Nintendo in the hardware field including this new gen with multi screen gaming
    Also Nintendo’s prudence from a financial point of view has kept them going very well, unlike Sony and M’soft who lay it all on the line taking massive financial hits on hardware to sell their systems

    Read that (though I don’t entirely agree with the case scenario it presents Nintendo in entirely, it’s a good article)

    Months ago a Microsoft exec went on record stating that XBOX has been a virtual waste of time from the beginning, and SCE recently did sell off a pile of assets to up their financial numbers. More devs are dropping off now because they can’t take the financial burdens of making technically top tier games. And everyone is falling into the trap of demanding higher fidelity visuals to define gaming entertainment. It’s all basically a fallacy.
    I got my PC for gaming anyways. I just picked up FarCry 3, and my PC’s 3 year old parts can nearly max the game out at 1920×1080. And then I have my WiiU which when Nintendo releases their 1st party titles. Will do fine. Because the WiiU cost so little to start with, a worst case scenario for Nintendo this gen, is they lose a small portion of money. And they can comfortably make a new system after

    • I hear this a lot and agree to an extent. You may be satisfied buying a Nintendo console for maybe 5 or 6 Nintendo first parties but to most people it doesn’t make economical sense. People shouldn’t be forced to buy another console or a PC because they want more third parties. As it is now I’m going to have to get a PS4 AND WiiU because my PC runs games at medium settings. I love Sony and Nintendo but I’d prefer not being forced into a purchase just to get the games I want.
      In terms of cost effective hardware, Nintendo did not have to go to the extreme. I don’t have exact numbers for this so I didn’t put it in the article, but making a WiiU costs like 180 bucks. Okay so they didn’t push it higher to take more of a loss (they’ve already said they are taking a slight loss with WiiU) 50-60% of that 180 is the stupid WiiU pad which does not have it’s own power and uses the consoles GPU for rendering. If thy prioritized power and then added the cool multiscreen for a creative element they’d be better off…
      And if WiiU doesn’t do well as Nintendo has learned from Wii that they will lose money not only from lack of console sales (in WiiU’s case) but also lack of game sales…
      Lastly, while it’s true developers have the ability to create great games with the WiiU hardware ( I’ve been reading and they is some excellent hidden potential with the eDRAM, like ridiculously awesome… that’s hard to use so again why make the system’s hidden power in a developer unfriendly region? Developers have so much more (and easier) to work with on Ps4 and X1 hardware wise. My question to Nintendo is why make it so difficult?

  2. I suppose Nintendo could have made a power console and “spent the war chest” to simply choke out the competition, but I probably wouldn’t like them for it, since it’s dirty business, and exactly the reason why I don’t like Sony and Microsoft.
    Power-games take 5 million sales just to break even.
    Wii U games take about 700’000 sales to break even.
    If you care about gaming existing as a viable business in 10 years, you’ll tell Sony and Microsoft to quit the power-game rather than egging Nintendo to join it.

    • Power means the ability for better games. Larger environments, smoother frame rates, more enemies, smarter AI, etc. I’m not saying Nintendo should break their backs selling a console at a 200 dollar loss. They just need to stop screwing themselves out if third party support by separating themselves entirely from the industry. I’d like gaming to exist in 10 years only if it means quality games. My point is to not let technology hamper the advancement of gaming. Nintendo did this with the Wii and they’re doing it with the WiiU.

  3. The same old arguments have been used to try and justify the overpriced 7th Generation consoles that used HDTVs. Turns out Smarter AI, more enemies, smoother frame rates weren’t on the priority lists of Sony and Microsoft. Selling HDTVs, DirectX Licenses, advertising space on the console home dashboard, and Blu-Ray discs however, was. 360 and PS3 games tended to run at between 10 and 20 frames per second while trying to render the sweat on the space marine’s cheek, and instead of resulting in better games, you have overbudgeted tech-pieces that needed to be re-released and re-launched multiple times, constant patching and charging the same small userbase over and over, even though they already paid for the game, via DLC schemes just to become profitable. The term Day-1-Paid-On-Disk-DLC came into being because of the PS3 and 360, and the need for PS3/360 developers to squeeze as much extra money out of their audience as soon as possible.

    • Honestly, the whole “war chest” thing is irrelevant. If Nintendo wants longevity the need to have the games people love to play from third parties as well. In order for that to happen from a hardware point games need to run on their consoles… These games which you crudely labeled “power games” aren’t evil and wrong just because the have higher production value. It’s true MS and Sony do go overboard on the specs sometimes, but they end up winning the long term game because they have third party support. Frankly it would be ridiculous to halt gaming at this technological point. Much of 7th generation was a marketing ploy with DLC and such, however we did see games that used hardware well like Gears of War and Uncharted/ The Last of Us as exclusives and many third party games as well. I’m not sure what games you’re talking about that run at 10-20 FPS that’s unplayable. I know games like Black Ops II run more smoothly on PS3/360 even though the WiiU is arguably better. I’m not trying to justify any action on the part of console makers ( though I do think it is ridiculous to restrict the advancement of gaming tech), I’m just saying if Nintendo really wants to pull back core gamers like they said they would, they need to be able to compete and not be off in a corner doing who knows what.

  4. Agreed. Power games aren’t evil and wrong just because they have higher production values. They’re evil and wrong because their developers use them in evil and wrong ways.
    For example:
    Making the text in the game too small to be read on standard definition TVs.
    Loading the game up with high-definition cutscenes so that they require a new proprietary disc format.
    Including bonus content on the disc that has to be bought separately from the disc itself.

    You claim that Sony and Microsoft end up winning the long term game, but what have they won? They have Namco’s undying loyalty, but Namco has been drowning in red ink all generation, and finally had to amputate their Tales Studio despite all of their high-budget Soul Calibur and Tales games hitting the PS3.
    Square Enix prioritized the PS3 and sold 3 million copies of Tomb Raider to critical acclaim. Despite that seeming success, Tomb Raider was considered a total failure, needing at least 7 million sales to break even. Wii U games, on average, need less than a million sales to break even.
    Developers are urged to spend, spend, and spend on AAA-development with the promise that people will buy enough to compensate, and when those games fall short of their sales goals, Sony and Microsoft just shrug and go, “Not my problem”. Nintendo, by emphasizing new gameplay ideas over crude power, encourage developers to exercise their brains more than their wallets, and those third parties reap greater returns on their investments by doing so.

    • Power games aren’t evil (which is way too serious of a word to be using), they are great games and I can tell by the way you talk that you probably haven’t played many. Tomb Raider for example was a fantastic game, great game play, story and graphics. While your totally right that graphics should not be the most important, they do matter. I’d rather play fun good looking games then fun crappy looking games if I had the choice. Also, kudos to Nintendo for new game play ideas but they need to encourage developers to make great gameplay not force them by restricting their tools. Perfect example, the Unreal engine is not that expensive to use and makes it easier for developers to make great games and focus on things other than graphics because that s=is taken care of. Nintendo can’t run Unreal Engine 4 easily. Gameplay is great but what Nintendo needs is a complete console. This doesn’t mean creating a super PC powerhouse because that’s unnecessary, but if we has gamers want games to progress they needs to be some technological advancement. Nintendo doesn’t seems to get this and they essentially re-release a tweaked GameCube with a new feature (Wii). I had fun on my Wii and it was my only console for a while. I missed games like Skyrim, Mass Effect 1 and 2, Far Cry. Borderlands, Assassin’s Creed 1, 2, Revelations and Brotherhood, Max Payne, Sleeping Dogs, Battlfield Bad Company 1 and 2, BioShock 1, 2 and Infinite, Battlefield 3, Dark Souls 1 and 2, Portal 1 and 2, Crysis 1, 2 and 3, Metro Last Light Dead Space 1, 2 and 3, Batman Arkham Asylum and various Metal Gear Solid games. You can not tell me those were all terrible games just because some have high budgets. The Wii did not get 95% of these games because it couldn’t run them, and that doesn’t mean the industry should have created devices similar to the Gamecube, Xbox and PS2. Those were great for their own reasons time for new consoles. Nintendo should rule the gaming industry. They should have comparable looking third party games and awesome first parties with unique controls. Instead the WiiU is in trouble, this next 6-8 month period which is looking to have some of the best games ever ( including games like Super Smash Universe and other Nintendo games) its going to miss GTA 5, BF 4, the new Star Wars games, Mass Effect 4, FIFA 14, NBA Live 14, Madden 25, Thief, Destiny, The Divison, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Mad Max and The Crew.
      Here’s a quote from Eurogamer that sums up what I’m trying to say

      “What is it with Nintendo and their concept of not making their consoles powerful enough? I understand Ninty’s theory that consoles don’t need to be powerful to be fun, but consoles need to be powerful enough to have games that everyone wants to play.

      Seriously, WiiU will suffer from the problems that plagued Wii. ”
      The solution to this problem is that Nintendo focuses more, not that the entire industry ceases to progress…

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