Earlier this week, rumors hit alleging that Nintendo's Wii U isn't as graphically capable as either PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. This is, of course, just the latest in a long line of wildly divergent rumors about the system's visual prowess, but with the Wii U scheduled to launch as early as November, these rumors are gaining an undeniable sense of urgency. People want to know some cold, hard facts about the system, and they want to know them now.
Alas, cold, hard facts remain in short supply where Wii U is concerned. In their place, we have another batch of comments from unnamed sources, a brief statement from Nintendo, and a positive appraisal of the system from Gearbox's Randy Pitchford.
For Nintendo, the Wii U's tablet controller is clearly the focus. Starting at E3 2011, pretty much every bit of information the company has shared about the system has centered on that controller, from its near field communication capability to its need to remain in the same room as the console. Extraordinarily little has been said about the Wii U hardware itself, save Shigeru Miyamoto's early admission that "I don’t know that we would be able to sit here and say that it’s going to necessarily dramatically outperform the systems that are out now."
That statement is clearly in line with the rumor from earlier this week, and now other unnamed "key developers" have expressed the same sentiment to CVG.
"Assumptions that Wii U games will look like 'up rezzed' current-gen titles with better textures aren't quite right. They'll look just as good, but not better. You shouldn't expect anything special from a graphics point of view"
"We're still working on dev machines but there have definitely been some issues [in porting PS3/360 games]. It's not actually a problem getting things up and running because the architecture is pretty conventional, but there are constraints with stuff like physics and AI processing because the hardware isn't quite as capable."
Uncharacteristically, a Nintendo representative actually released a statement in the wake of this week's rumors. The message, though, is pure, classic Nintendo. From Digital Trends:
“We do not focus on technology specs. We understand that people like to dissect graphics and processing power, but the experience of playing will always be more important than raw numbers.”
If the Wii U has one vocal supporter in the development community, it's got to be Gearbox's Randy Pitchford. Pitchford hasn't been shy about singing the system's praises, pointing out that his studio's upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines has "much more to offer" on Wii U. On another occasion, Pitchford noted that Wii U has "more RAM" and a "really great processor." Speaking with Joystiq, Pitchford offered yet another positive assessment of the system.
"It's a really cool system -- it's pretty powerful. I want to be careful, because I don't want to risk any sensitive information that Nintendo's not ready to share yet, but in our experience it's a great system. I think it's a really nice bridge to the next generation. I think people will be surprised. I don't know off the top of my head how many of the specs they've released, so I want to be very careful not to jump the gun, but we're very pleased with the hardware."
While Pitchford's vote of confidence has got to be a boon for Nintendo supporters, the growing din of developers claiming that Wii U is merely "on par" with current consoles is increasingly difficult to ignore. Still, despite the recent focus on graphics, it is the Wii U's controller that will ultimately dictate the system's fate. If the tablet controller truly is as revolutionary and engaging as Nintendo believes it to be, players are unlikely to be put off by PS3/Xbox 360 quality graphics. On the other hand, if the controller fails to connect with players, no amount of visual splendor will be enough to make up for it.
With that, the wait for cold, hard Wii U facts continues.
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