The announcement that Nintendo’s Wii U will finally bring the company into the realms of 1080p HD gaming has kicked up a lot of excitement among their loyal fan base, and it is also expected to give Nintendo’s a competitive edge with high profile cross-platform games that was previously lacking on the Wii. However, anonymous sources reportedly familiar with the Wii U technology have stated in an interview with GamesIndustry International that it will actually be less powerful than the current generation Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. While Nintendo has not commented on how the Wii U will compare to other consoles, these supposed drawbacks do raise some interesting questions about how well the Wii U will fare against current and future competition.
While initially surprising, the Wii U’s potential lack of horsepower makes sense when you consider Nintendo’s tendency to push innovation rather than technical performance and graphical output. Similar to the Wii’s focus on motion control, the key selling point for the Wii U will be the unique tablet controller that was debuted at E3 2011 and has since been the hot topic of discussion and criticism among gamers and the media. The unique controller points to Nintendo’s continued focus on unique gameplay rather than competing with other consoles on a technical level. The Wii brought motion control into our living rooms and was the top selling console since it’s debut, however it lacked the HD gameplay and processing power of it’s competition. This proves that being less powerful does not necessarily mean less profitable, however it remains to be seen if this will hold true in the next console generation.
The developers also cite cost concerns as a possible reason for the Wii U’s downscaled processing power. The tablet controller, which incorporates an LCD touchscreen, cameras and motion control, represents an increased cost in both the production of the system and the cost to the consumers. As such, sacrifices in the CPU, RAM and GPU of the console would have to be made in order to make the Wii U cost-effective and competitive in the crowded gaming market. Should this be true, it would fall in line with Nintendo’s competitive pricing structure. The Wii was released in November 2006 and retailed for $249.99 US, well below the $399.99 launch price for the Xbox 360 and $499.999 for the Playstation 3. Costs to the Wii were further reduced by including internal flash memory with SD card expansion in lieu of a hard drive, a move that has been repeated with the Wii U, so it is very likely that cost plays a significant factor in the hardware specifications of Nintendo’s new console.
Will the Wii U be successful despite these potential technical drawbacks? That remains to be seen, but Nintendo continues to push innovation and they have strong brand loyalty among their fan base. While the less-powerful console may have put the Wii into disrepute with the hardcore gamer hivemind, the relatively low cost, innovative control scheme and push towards the casual game market proved a successful combination. The Wii U may cater to both sides by offering the casual gaming experience and offering the top-shelf HD games that more hardcore gamers gravitate towards. Though unconfirmed at this time, the Wii U is anticipated to launch in November 2012.