Nintendo's Wii U Bound to Be Unfriendly to Third-Party Developers

Dated hardware will yet again keep additional developers at bay soon after launch.

By , Contributor

There's an interview floating around the web today with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime in which he states the footage of Wii U games shown during the E3 2011 Nintendo keynote was not of actual Wii U games. Instead, the third-party titles shown, including Ninja Gaiden 3, were from the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 versions. That's not worth some of the outrage being strewn about in various corners, as it doesn't seem like deceit was intended. 

What's truly interesting are his other comments about third-party developers. Fils-Aime admits the Wii missed a number of major, top tier games because of the Wii's relatively low-rent horsepower. In other words, if you're a developer creating a $10 million AAA video game for the Xbox 360/PS3, that entire engine must be cut to pieces, downgraded, and shoveled onto the Wii at significant additional cost. Obviously, few were willing to do so, or if the property had potential, maybe they hired a different developer to handle a version specific to the Wii. That's expensive too.

But, according to the dominating presence that is Reggie, third parties will find no such faults with the Wii U when it launches sometime in 2012. They will be able to take their code for the Xbox 360 and PS3, port it over, and reap all the benefits.

The downside to that is timing. Nintendo has taken almost an entire generation to reach this peak of visual fidelity and hardware power which was already available in 2006. On the Microsoft and Sony side, their console cycle is winding down. Maybe there's even a shot that one of them may be revealing a new game console at E3 2012. Even if they don't, 2013 is looking awfully strong for system launches, meaning yet again Nintendo will fall behind, hitting the same rut they did with the Wii and only a year into the Wii U's lifespan.

Surely the Wii U will thrive on Nintendo's own support, various titles in the Mario, Zelda, and Metroid franchises thriving or even innovating with that six-inch touch screen controller. If I'm a third-party though, I wouldn't be so quick to commit development or financial resources after that initial burst of hype. It seems like a losing battle yet again because of the company's insistence on saving hardware costs in exchange for some type of innovative controller. Even if that makes them seem ahead of the curve in the public eye, it makes them look downright ancient in the eyes of someone cranking out software.

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Matt Paprocki is a 13-year veteran of the video game, movie, and home media scene. He has written thousands of reviews, has been published on a variety of websites, and contributes his thoughts daily on a diverse range of topics.

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