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This is getting silly now. With all the world's hardcore eyes on it after the miserably low-res Wii years, Nintendo has a lot to prove with the Wii U. Supposedly the Nintendo console for everyone, with enough cool tricks to please the casual player and enough horsepower to provide for the more demanding core player, this next console really has to deliver in that latter respect. It has to in order to convice the disenfranchised traditional gamer that Nintendo is still a viable option. And it has to if the Wii U is going to have any hope of remaining a viable hardcore option if the Xbox 720 and PS4 turn up at next year's E3 (though they probably won't).
But Nintendo still won't release anything concrete on the machine's specs. We've had some stunning tech demos, but past those, nothing bar new, vague, contradictory reports from various sources, bringing us a different story every day. Is it 50% more powerful than a PS3? Is it 27% less powerful than a Vectrex? I want to know, and you do too, and in order to find out I've compiled every report so far and fine-toothed the lot of them to try to make some kind of overall conclusion.
Read on, and you will find my findings.
Date reported: June 7th
Person quoted: Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime, speaking to Gametrailers.
"This is a Wii for you"
"Tick off the box. High definition graphics. Got it"
"There has been some fantastic content that has not come to our platform. Third-party publishers have told us that the reason they couldn't bring it to our platform was based on the horsepower of the machine. That excuse has gone. So now all of the best content from third-party publishers can come to the machine"
Above: You have no idea how much I want to do a Tommy Cooper Photoshop on this image
"In terms of how good it looks, it's going to be driven by what the individual developers do. The system's going to be 1080P. It's going to be high definition. So again, tick that box. That's done. Now it's about 'What is the new experience we're going to bring to bear?'"
And when asked if Nintendo has the facilities to produce a Zelda that looks as good as Uncharted,
"We absolutely have the teams to deliver that type of experience"
Conclusions: The bit about a Nintendo being able to make a Zelda that looks as good as Uncharted is incredibly promising, but it's a bit worrying that Reggie kept mentioning 1080P definition as if it's the be-all and end-all of current-generation console hardware. High-def seemed to be the big man's stock answer when referring to horsepower, and I really hope that wasn't a way of deflecting questions about more important processing issues. You can stick a PS1 game in HD if you want to. It still looks like ass.
Date reported: June 8th
Person quoted: Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata, telling a Japanese newspaper that the Wii U will cost more than the $250 Wii did at launch.
Conclusions: Over $250 sounds like the right price-point for a high-powered machine, given that the 250Gb Xbox 360 currently goes for $299.99, and the RRP for a 160Gb PS3 is the same. How much of the manufacturing cost of a Wii U goes towards the touch-screen controller though, is anybody's guess. So er, this one doesn't prove anything really. Sorry. Erm... Look over there! A thing! You know, one of those exciting things you like!
Date reported: June 13th
Person Quoted: Ubisoft Quebec's senior technical architect Marc Parenteau at an E3 developer roundtable
"The multi-core architecture of the console is a natural fit for our in-house HD engines, such as the Anvil engine used in Assassin's Creed. In addition, the large memory capacity of the console will be used to bring performance enhancements, such as pre-calculating data or increasing our cache sizes... Assassin's Creed has a very distinctive look, and we want to get it just right. so I'm happy to say that the graphical shaders that are used in development are fully functional. This will allow us to reuse our assets across platforms and make sure that the graphical quality is top-notch."
And when asked to comment directly on power comparisons between the Wii U, Xbox 360 and PS3,
"It's too early to make comparisons with that sort of thing. We're still learning how to maximize the usage of the hardware. The hardware is evolving a bit also. The dev kits are not final, so there's still some before the actual... uh... before we can make comparisons. And you have to understand, we've been working on other engines for a long time so we need some time to catch up and get up to date on what we can do with the hardware. So to compare now wouldn't be fair."
Conclusions: So Assassin's Creed runs swimmingly. That's good news. And it sounds like it runs better than it does on the Xbox 360 and PS3, if that mention of "the large memory capacity" and "performance enhancements" is anything to go by. At least as powerful as its HD rivals, but with better loading times? That sounds like the bare minimum horsepower at the moment. Though Parenteau's certainty seems to fall apart a bit when asked for direct comparisons to the competition. Don't worry too much though. Ubisoft has been learning to use 360 and PS3 for over six years now, and we're seeing better results from those machines all the time. He's probably just referring to the fact that those sort of depths haven't been plumbed with the Wii U yet. Probably. I hope. Yeah, definitely probably.