Normal web browsing works well

Prior to Wii U's launch we posted the news that the Wii U web browser posted impressive benchmark results when running resources such as audio and video, its score putting it above Internet Explorer 10. Those were pleasing results, though Matt Hackett, co-founder of HTML5 game developer Lost Decade Games, put the browser to work with a greater focus on web gaming,

On the positive side, Hackett discovered that the browser can play games and maps the arrow keys of a keyboard very conveniently to the GamePad's d-pad, yet the list of negatives was fairly substantial.

Using the online HTML5 Test tool (as well as a few of my own scripts), I compiled the capabilities of the Wii U browser. Here are some of those results:

  • No Audio support
  • No Web Audio API
  • No WebGL, WebSockets, or File API
  • No AppCache, some security
  • No WebWorkers
  • Framerate is very low (~10 FPS for tested games)

An Audio object exists but it doesn’t support any standard audio formats (such as mp3, ogg, or even wav). Sadly there’s no WebGL support at all. Though the localStorage object exists and will accept commands to get and set data, the local storage data is wiped when the browser is closed, breaking its functionality completely.

The lack of any storage space for the browser rules out the practicality of any HTML5 games with monetised incentives and items, while free games will often run, but without audio and game saves while suffering from a low frame rate. Hackett did, however, map various functions to their relevant GamePad inputs.

A: mouse click or enter/return key equivalent (USABLE!)
B: history.back()
Y: open bookmarks
X: toggle TV visibility
d-pad: arrow keys (USABLE!)
Left stick: pan
Right stick: zoom
-: zoom out
+: zoom in
L/R: history.back/forward
LZ/RZ: previous/next tab

While HTML5 is a growing market for creative game development, it's perhaps unsurprising that Nintendo wouldn't provide a particularly supportive browser. It'll want Wii U owners to be attracted into buying games from the eShop, and having a browser run free web games would be counter-productive to that. For those of you that do enjoy a bit of web gaming, it looks like you'd be better sticking with a PC or Mac.