While it's easy to get tangled up in technicalities when it comes to the graphical prowess of Wii U, one thing is 99% certain: the successors to Xbox 360 and PS3 will be more powerful, from a graphical standpoint. Whether or not the Wii U matches or surpasses the existing HD systems in this respect — it will take time for its full potential to be seen — doesn't detract from the fact that, once again, Nintendo is prioritising its concept above pushing unprecedented polygon levels.
It was a gamble that paid off with Wii, in terms of the system out-selling its rivals during its lifespan, though issues of third-party support and securing multi-platform blockbusters could arise once again. Will future titles designed for Microsoft and Sony's new systems be scalable to work well on Wii U, will the difference be too substantial for developers to think it worthwhile, or will there be a perception, once again, that gamers who love triple A titles don't want them on a Nintendo system? Satoru Iwata has already briefed investors earlier this year that the graphical difference between Wii U and its rivals won't be as severe as it was in the case of Wii, but it's a potential issue nevertheless.
It's possible, however, that Nintendo is once again reading the trends and catering to shifts in the game industry. The painful budgets that often accompany major HD projects are well known, and one opinion is that the days of triple A franchises are diminishing, making these bombastic affairs less common. Speaking at the Gamercamp festival in Toronto, Splinter Cell: Blacklist director Patrick Redding had this to say about shifting priorities in gaming development.
The market as a whole is going to undergo a critical shift in priorities, a shift away from the absolute primacy of graphics and production values and content creation toward systemic depth. This trend is going to trigger a reality check for developers like me who work on established franchises with a large succession of sequels, and it's also going to be a call-to-arms for smaller game creators, including a number of people who are sitting in this room, I hope.
If there is a trend of moving away from a focus on visual fidelity, that could undoubtedly be a positive for Wii U. Redding went on to explain that "lower-case aaa" games could focus on other ideas, like asynchronous multiplayer and more open-ended games. The former suits Wii U and its GamePad perfectly, though systemically open games that encourage the gamer to determine events and the story — Minecraft was cited as an example — could be reliant on the little-known Nintendo Network being robust and reliable.
Do you think Redding may be right, or will demand for a high number of triple A blockbusters keep that side of the development industry strong? If you agree with Redding, do you think Wii U will potentially benefit, or will gamers still want the graphical powerhouses predicted from Microsoft and Sony? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.