Could Nintendo's new console, the Wii U, be off to a rough start before it even has a release date? According to an article on Kotaku, the Wii U may not be powerful enough to keep up with the next generation of Xbox and PlayStation consoles. It seems that Nintendo is following the model that was so successful with the Nintendo Wii: Put out a lower-power machine first, but make up for the lack of horsepower with an innovative control scheme.
"After the next generation of machines comes out, Wii U will be a performance orphan," one industry insider who is familiar with the specs of the Wii U, said to Kotaku. "It will be closer in performance to the next iPad than the next-gen machines. "
By 2014 we're probably going to be seeing the next Xbox and PlayStation, and these machines will almost certainly boast more impressive specs than what we've already seen on the Wii U. Insiders have stated that the Wii U's 2 GB of RAM is impressive now, compared to say an Xbox 360's 512MB of RAM, but when the next-gen consoles come along and are 6-8 time more powerful than they are now, they'll once again leave Nintendo's console in the dust in terms of processing power.
On top of that, many industry-watcher are skeptical about whether the Wii U will be able to run Unreal Engine 4 games right out of the box. That's the engine many major development houses will likely be using to create games in the coming years.
At E3 2012, the UE4 demo was running on a high-end PC with Direct X 11 support, something that we're not sure if the Wii U supports yet or not. But, since the Wii U is required to run at a relatively low speed to keep its chips from getting too hot, people are assuming it won't get DX11 support. So far, Nintendo hasn't released the specs on the new system.
Nintendo has yet to confirm or deny if the Wii U will be getting Unreal Engine 4 support or not, but we do know that it can run UE3 games. On top of the console's new online capabilities, interesting new controller, and HD graphics, it'd be a shame if we couldn't play some of the best games of the next generation on the Wii U, but would it be a shame for Nintendo?
Nintendo's last generation of home console was wildly successful, and was always planned as a low-power machine; The Wii was never meant to compete with its big brothers, the PS3 and 360 in terms of power. It seems increasingly obvious that Nintendo is trying the same thing again, but can video game lightning strike twice?
Part of the reason the Nintendo Wii was able to sell more units than any other machine this console cycle was that it tapped new markets -- casual gamers who didn't really care about graphical and processing power, but just wanted to play motion games. My question: Are there enough of those people still out there, or have public tastes changed? Will even "casual" next-gen game consumers snub Nintendo's Wii U in favor of more beefed-up machines like the PS4 and Xbox 720? We'll see when the device comes out this holiday season.
One part of last-generation's cycle that is unlikely to repeat is the lack of third-party software for the Wii. Big publishers like EA were caught flat-footed after the release of the Wii, and didn't have as many top-shelf games lined up to take advantage of the Wii's unexpectedly huge sales. Look for robust third party support at the Wii U's launch, but once the PS4 and Xbox 720 come out, all bets are off. It looks like another massive console war is heating up -- get the popcorn ready for 2013-2014.