Talking Point: Is Wii U's Power Really That Important?

It's how you use it

One topic's dominated the Wii U news since Nintendo revealed its new console at E3 2011 — just how powerful is it?

Nintendo's Wii U technical specifications give the vaguest of nods to its under-the-hood power, just mentioning a multi-core IBM processor — which we know is based on game show-conquering chip Watson — but it seems every developer, publisher and Johnny Commenter has had their say about how Nintendo's next system stacks up against PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Let's recap how industry minds have rated the Wii U's power on our Wii U thermometer:

Hot!Twice as powerful as 360 (anonymous developer); 50% more powerful than PS3 (analyst Arvind Bhatia); Wii U Out-RAMs Xbox 360 and PS3 (Gearbox chief creative officer Brian Martell)

LukewarmWii U is "on par" with PS3 and 360 (Darksiders II developer Vigil Games)

Ice coldWii U "less powerful than PS3 and 360" (anonymous developers)

Anonymous quotations are easy to dismiss, and while Nintendo has developers locked down under a heavy non-disclosure agreement (NDA), major publishers and developers have spoken out in favour of the machine's power. That's not to mention the fact plenty of PS3 and 360 games are on the way to Wii U: the first Wii U third party video made sure of that.

It's no secret that Nintendo's happy to trail its competitors when it comes to graphical grunt: 3DS games look good, but Vita leaves it in the shade on a technical level. Wii games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 show the machine's got power, but there's some substance to the "two GameCubes taped together" line, and its 480p output felt like a relic years ago. DS hardly compared favourably to PSP, either.

That didn't stop Nintendo from selling tens of millions of Wii and DS consoles, nor 3DS hitting massive sales just as Vita launched in Japan. Why should it be any different for Wii U?

The notion that the most powerful system is automatically the best is a thing of the past.

The answer, of course, is third party support. We've seen a truly mixed bag of third party franchises come to Wii, from the excellent to the awful: for every Dead Space: Extraction there's a SoulCalibur Legends or Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop. It took some publishers years of commercial failures to realise what works best on Wii, and with Wii U's controller taking a similar design leap we could see the same situation all over again. At least if the console can keep up with its rivals in the graphical stakes, developers can spend less time on technical issues and more effort making the most of that 6.2" touch screen.

Ultimately, though, the notion that the most powerful system is automatically the best is a thing of the past. With gaming heading towards a service industry thanks to increased entertainment and digital options, how many shaded polygons you can throw at the screen is just a small part of the equation.

If Wii U isn't capable of the most stunning graphics you ever saw, it's not the end of the world: rest assured studios around the world are still working on creating enjoyable and innovative experiences that are only possible on Wii U's set up. At the end of the day, forget statistics and tech specs: it's the games that give a console its real power. With Nintendo and countless third parties on board, Wii U should have all the strength it needs.