The latest issue of Nintendo Gamer is on sale now.
Sneaky peeks beneath Wii U's hood suggest that it won't pack the same punch as the Nextbox or PlayStation 4. In fact, credible sources have suggested its graphical grunt will only match the current generation of MicroSony consoles. The question is: does this matter?
Surely a good game is more than the realistic rendering of a SpaceBro's soul patch. Great games emerge from their mechanics - the way you play them - not from the sheer number of polygons the processor can spit out.
At least, that's the line Kyle Gabler takes, one of the two man team behind World of Goo developer 2DBoy: "Remember that enormous world in Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past?" he says. "And all the music and feelings it made you feel? The whole game fit inside 1MB and played on hardware slower than my phone.
That whole world, and all the characters inside of it, fit inside the amount of data it takes to render the hi-def sweaty bicep of the grumpy soldier who saves the world in every single game these days. More processing power doesn't make better games, just like better recording equipment doesn't make better music, and better CG doesn't make better movies. The best developers always work with what they've got and embrace any constraints as friendly challenges to be even more creative."
Wii U is already drawing developers with smart uses of its second screen, and it's possible that by guaranteeing novelty, while capping graphics budgets, Nintendo could lure the really innovative studios away from more expensive hardware leaps. On those graphics powerhouses, the sheer volume of mega-bucks needed to stuff the AAA money hole will make innovative gameplay something of a risk - it's the reason that big-hitting titles so often tend to trudge the tame path of iteration in well-worn genres.
POWER BEYOND POLYGONS
"There is no graphics arms race, and if there is one, it's silly," declares Gabler. "It's like trying to be the prettiest girl in high school. Everyone wants to be her, and then nasty texts get sent, and hair gets pulled, and nobody wins. Meanwhile the quiet nerdy girl who plays cello and has Star Trek Voyager posters on her wall silently wins high school and grows up to get a PhD and a hot husband. The best designers don't compete on the same field as everyone else. They find that thing they do better than anyone else and make a brilliant game on their own terms."
Nathan Vella of Capybara Games, makers of the utterly brilliant Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes, echoes the sentiment: "From our side of the fence, making small games that emphasize visual style over raw rendering power, (Wii U's hardware specs) will have no qualitative impact. All the games that Capy wants to make, or are making, wouldn't be worse without the ability to render high-res cloth textures or have thousands of strands of lifelike hair - and I believe this to be true for many independent studios."