Wii U power debate: Iwata swears it will keep up with next-gen. Microsoft says 'it's a 360'

Phil Spencer, Corporate President of Microsoft Studios, has said in an interview with GamesIndustry that Nintendo is "building a platform that is effectively a 360 when you think of graphical capability", referring to the Wii U. But Nintendo's President, Satoru Iwata, while not entirely disagreeing with the core sentiment, has told investors that Wii U will not be left behind in the next generation, because the graphical differences will not be so great. So which is it?

Surely the almost seven-years-old Xbox 360 wouldn't be able to keep up with the next generation? Isn't that the whole point of a new generation of hardware? And yet, we've seen Wii U in action. We've played it, we've enjoyed it and we want one yesterday. But the demos of (the admittedly unfinished) ZombiU and Batman: Arkham City that we've seen with our very eyes look sub-Xbox 360 quality, or at least approximate to it. And none of them were running at 1080p.

Above: Oh, Wii U - how next-gen are you? And can we put a different game in, please?

Iwata's exact words to investors were: "Other companies might launch a next-generation console with more power, but we don't necessarily think that the difference between the Wii U and such consoles will be as drastic as what you felt it was between the Wii and the other consoles because there will be fewer and fewer differentiators in graphics."

He has a fair point when he talks about the gap between this gen and next and how it will not be as pronounced as that between the essentially Gamecube-powered Wii and the PS3/360. Games like Watch Dogs could probably run on an Xbox 360 with all the sliders turned down a bit. But how long is that going to last?

Above: Could Wii U run this? A version, yes. Certainly better than Wii runs Call of Duty...

He told the very same investors: "We cannot promise that the Wii U will never be excluded from multiplatform software for eternity, but we can at least assure you that the Wii U will not have such a big difference as the Wii had in comparison to how, on other platforms, developers could expect very different graphic capabilities of generating HD-applicable high-resolution graphics."

"Naturally some consumers are very sensitive about such a small difference in graphics, so that we will make efforts to make the most of the performance of the Wii U to keep up with technological innovations and not to make the system out-of-date soon."

Are you convinced? Can Nintendo squeeze enough juice from the system to keep it viable for multiplatform games well into the next generation? Or will it just become port-central for the best of the outgoing generation that never got a chance to run on Wii? Let us know in the comments.

Justin Towell

Justin was a GamesRadar staffer for 10 years but is now a freelancer, musician and videographer. He's big on retro, Sega and racing games (especially retro Sega racing games) and currently also writes for Play Magazine, Traxion.gg, PC Gamer and TopTenReviews, as well as running his own YouTube channel. Having learned to love all platforms equally after Sega left the hardware industry (sniff), his favourite games include Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams, Zelda BotW, Sea of Thieves, Sega Rally Championship and Treasure Island Dizzy.