GCWiiU

Nintendo's (Non) Reaction to Wii U Rumours

by James Charlton - April 9, 2012, 8:04 am PDT
Total comments: 31

Could Nintendo's refusal to talk real specs hurt them in the end? It has before.

With Nintendo's honourable refusal to get drawn into the latest "Wii U isn't as powerful as current gen systems" argument, I can't help but remember the last time Nintendo was mixed up in the power game, and how terribly that ended for them.

The GameCube was the last Nintendo console to be on level ground with all its rivals; in some aspects it was "better" than the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, and in others it was "worse." I'm not for one second going to pretend I know anything of the nitty-gritty technicalities—all I can do is look at the games (Rogue Leader, Resident Evil 4, Wind Waker, etc.)

During the run up to the GameCube's release, as with the Wii U, people were desperate to know how powerful it was. Will it blow the PS2 out the water? Will it be on par with Xbox? Does it render 20 billion polygons at 50,000 gigawatts an hour?

Every other question aimed at Nintendo was concerning the speed of the processor and the power of it's graphics. People would NOT let up. Nintendo revealed the technical specs incrementally, but they were incredibly modest—to a fault.

Nintendo basically lowballed it, giving specs that, when put side-by-side with those of the PS2, looked very weak. This was made worse coupled with the fact Sony were touting their console as the second coming with the "Emotion Engine" so powerful that you "feel" the game. Renderings of human heads that were beyond those in the Final Fantasy movies—all coming to a Sony console near you! (Or not.)

By this point, the Internet had already made its mind up—the GameCube is a stupid kiddy toy with crap graphics, third in terms of power behind its rivals. It didn't matter how many times Nintendo fans went on message boards crying that X part of the GPU was in fact 33% faster than the PS2, or the Z chip was speedier than the Xbox under so-and-so conditions. The damage had been done and most people had made their minds up. Of course, if people had watched just two minutes of Rogue Leader or Wave Race: Blue Storm, all those misconceptions could have been laid to rest. However, with the system tied to games like Monkey Ball and Luigi's Mansion, it was hard to convince the haters otherwise.

So now we're here with Wii U, with some developers stating it's incredibly easy to program for, with graphics beyond PS3, while others are saying the exact opposite. Could it be they were talking about different versions of the dev kits? Possibly. Could it be that the latter were just not capable of getting the full power out the Wii U? I have no idea. Although I do find it strange that Nintendo aren't worried about helping these guys understand the system better.

The point is, the past couple of weeks have been doing untold damage to an already underwhelmed audience. Last year's E3 was a bunch of Wii Play mini-games mixed with showreels of games already available on other platforms. The hardcore crowd that Nintendo seems to want to (partially) reinvigorate are less than impressed, and are getting LESS impressed with rumours like what we've been hearing recently. So, unless Nintendo wants to start the whole downward spiral that it started and didn't even bother trying to stop during the beginning of the GameCube's life, it needs better damage control than, "It's all about the experience of play." They're saying this to people who think the Xbox controller is the best ever made and offers them the best control for the games they like. It's completely meaningless to them.

Now I for one don't care about the graphics war, but I know that many do, many of whom are unlikely to shell out $299.99 for a system that doesn't do what their current system does, especially with the possibility of new and "better" systems in 2013. It's foolish for Nintendo to think that E3 will be the be-all-end-all of revelations, something so amazing that anyone in their right mind will be blown away by. This is Nintendo—they're not going to get everything right straight out the gate. Whether it's a lacking third-party selection or a less than perfect online system, you know they're going to mess at least one thing up, so the very least they can do at this point is to lay to rest rumours that their next-gen system is less powerful than a six-year old piece of hardware. I'm not suggesting they lie or inflate specs like Sony did. Just come out tell people how it is. These conflicting statements from devs are hurting the console, and my brain.

The very fact that Nintendo doesn't get into these arguments is part of why I like them, but that's coming from a guy who's never stopped playing their games for 25 years; I'm already sold. If they want more people on board than what the GameCube had, they're going to have to step up and quash these rumours with some more "cojones" behind it, otherwise Wii U could be dead on arrival.

Talkback

PodingsApril 09, 2012

Do take note.
Nintendo has NEVER publicly announced the specs of the Wii.
Not before its release, not five years after, not in between.


I'm pretty sure this hasn't hurt sales of the thing.
Nintendo's stance is now that graphics are good enough as to where it's useless arguing on numbers. The fans, the press and even some developers get them all wrong anyway.

NinSageApril 09, 2012

1. Tossing around phrases like "dead on arrival" does not help your journalistic integrity.  "Less than optimally successful"? Maybe.  But let's avoid scare-tactics.

2. *shrug*... I would definitely appreciate not having to read people debating possible specs based on little-to-no information.  And I would also like to know ahead of E3 if we should have lower expectations so it doesn't become THE headline of Nintendo's E3.  BUT.... ultimately I know the thing will be strong enough to play the games I want to play. 

As long as it is enough for 3rd parties, those games will be there too.

Evan_BApril 09, 2012

Well said. Of course, you can't rule out the idea that, if Nintendo releases their specs to the public, that means their competition will have knowledge on how to exploit them and surpass them with their next-gen consoles. Nintendo may be playing it very safe, but it's also a very dangerous game.

People forget that esteemed developers have said positive things about the Wii U- there was no shit storm about those statements. However, anonymous rumors are the ones that get the most publicity. Who has more to lose- someone who comes out and says the console is better, or someone who keeps their identity under wraps and nails the ware from afar?

Just things to speculate upon.

Chozo GhostApril 09, 2012

Quote from: Podings

Do take note.
Nintendo has NEVER publicly announced the specs of the Wii.
Not before its release, not five years after, not in between.

There is a reason why Nintendo has never announced the specs of the Wii. It is this very reason which makes it all the more troubling that Nintendo is keeping the Wii U specs under wraps, because there is good reason to believe that history is repeating itself.

There would have been no benefit to releasing the specs of the Wii; if anything, it could have increased the negativity toward the platform.

In this case, though, they should have fallen back to their old standby of "Nintendo does not comment on rumors and speculation." Answering the way they did opens them up to more criticism, as it makes them sound defensive about it, like they've got something to hide. This should be taken more as a PR failure than any kind of revelation about the Wii U hardware.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Staff AlumnusApril 10, 2012

If Nintendo had released specs of the Wii, people would have been confused as to why Nintendo reposted GameCube specs.


I kid! I kid because I love.  ;D

Quote from: Chozo

There is a reason why Nintendo has never announced the specs of the Wii. It is this very reason which makes it all the more troubling that Nintendo is keeping the Wii U specs under wraps, because there is good reason to believe that history is repeating itself.

That's a good point. It's kind of like a poker game: are they bluffing with a strong hand....or do they got nothin' which is why they're not saying anything? **crosses fingers**

Quote from: NinSage

1. Tossing around phrases like "dead on arrival" does not help your journalistic integrity.  "Less than optimally successful"? Maybe.  But let's avoid scare-tactics.

I agree, however if you listen to talk on multiplatform sites, there is very little talk of it. Only when the big negative rumours arise do they take notice. Would have been nice to have a better comeback from Nintendo to quash them flat to stop the negative bandwagon in its tracks, otherwise this will get worse and worse to the point where people will just ignore the thing altogether when it releases a-la the GC.


I think its better to have problems concerning price (PS3) or poor hardware design (360) than the systems power, as those other things can be fixed later. i.e The PS3 dropped in price and the 360 got a slim model with better components.
You can't improve performance or features at a later date...well you COULD but it's not a good idea *cough N64 expansion pak *cough* Motion Plus cough*


If I were Nintendo I'd allow some devs to "leak" some info about the Wii U and/or its games, give us some little thing that could blow this all away.

HypotheliciouslyApril 10, 2012

This is way over-blown. Nintendo doesn't have to do anything. They don't have to please hardcore fans with numbers and specs because their opinion doesn't matter. It's third party opinions that matter and from what I've heard, the Wii U is a great console.

PodingsApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Chozo

There is a reason why Nintendo has never announced the specs of the Wii. It is this very reason which makes it all the more troubling that Nintendo is keeping the Wii U specs under wraps, because there is good reason to believe that history is repeating itself.

That's not particularly a worrying scenario, though.

If history repeats itself, Nintendo sells 100 million Wii Us, earning a profit on every single one, while putting out game after game selling 30 million at full retail price.

GoldenPhoenixApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Stogi

This is way over-blown. Nintendo doesn't have to do anything. They don't have to please hardcore fans with numbers and specs because their opinion doesn't matter. It's third party opinions that matter and from what I've heard, the Wii U is a great console.

This!

The 3rd party developers that matter (including many who wouldn't even touch Wii) are happy with the system on various levels. Fact is that even if Nintendo had a system, like the writer of this article stated, that could run circles around Xbox 720 and PS4, they wouldn't hype it either. We have to realize one thing, Nintendo has ALWAYS been a company that isn't huge into tech demos and rendered trailers, even if they do have them from time to time (like the Zelda Wii U tech demo), they care only about how the game plays and usually wait until they can show it in a playable state visually. How often have Sony and MS had game trailers with all CGI visuals, while Nintendo, holds off until they can show the game in a playable state and how it REALLY looks? Yeah, that has been common since the N64 days.

Nintendo has always been good about setting realistic expectations and focusing on not the hardware under the hood, but how the games play. I think Wii U will be fine in the end, we must also take into account that a systems "power" isn't always clear either because of various focuses in the hardware architecture and parts (such as maybe having a lot of RAM but the processor being under powered or any other contrasting hardware choices).

There is one thing I can pretty much guarantee though, you won't see close to the same gap we had with Wii and PS3/360, and I don't just mean the visuals, but everything else in the game such as AI.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Stogi

They don't have to please hardcore fans with numbers and specs because their opinion doesn't matter.

Well, actually it does.... unless 3rd parties are going to be the ones buying millions of consoles and the associated software. Consumers matter because they are the ones that buy your ****. Keeping consumers pleased and on board should be the top priority, and yes that should come first even before developers.

You see, getting 3rd parties on board is simply a means to an end. It is not the end. Consumers are the end.

I believe his point was that if third party developers are happy, they'll make games for it, and then people will buy the system to play the games. The specs are only important insofar as they lead to quality software.

Ian SaneApril 11, 2012

It is very interesting that Nintendo has been in the videogame business way longer than Sony and MS and have outlasted old rivals like Sega and Atari and yet seem so out-of-touch.  They've been out-of-touch with third parties, the gaming media and, aside from the casual audience they've recently targetted, gamers in general.  In many ways the decision to target casuals with the Wii seemed like waving a white flag.  "We can't even begin to guess what gamers want so we're going to switch to a new audience that won't notice how big of fuddy-duddies we are."

The whole way they have handled this, which could easily have been either a "we don't comment on rumours" or a flatout denial of the pretty negative accusation (what damage could THAT possibly do?  They don't even need to give real info, just say "of course we're not going to have a weaker system than what is out now!") just fits that post-N64 mold of Nintendo being completely disconnected from reality.  They're either too stupid to realize how to give an answer that doesn't give the impression of all but confirming the accusation or they really ARE going with less-than-current specs and are too out-of-touch to realize the problems with that, at least in regards to attracting anyone beyond a casual audience.

I am shocked to how this company is so stunned.  Do they literally live in a cave?  They screw up such routine stuff all the time.  They consistently make big "damn any chance of succeeding with anyone but children and casuals" mistakes that a thousand gamers on forums were predicting would be a huge mistake from day one.  Anybody with the slightest interest in videogames gets this stuff right while Nintendo gets it wrong.  Do they not talk with any other videogame companies?  Do they not play any videogames themselves?

Hopefully they're NOT going with last gen specs AGAIN but even if that is a non-issue, this doesn't give me any hope.  If they can't put out this fire without making it worse, how can I expect them to not be fucking up numerous other things that are more important, particularly when they've gained a reputation for fucking that sort of stuff up for the last 15+ years?  Realistically for Nintendo to come back and get out of this casual gamer rutt and actually matter to core gamers again, there needs to be some major fundamental change.  This doesn't suggest that.  This is a typical Nintendo PR snafu, exactly the sort you would expect from the company that thought sticking with cartridges was a good idea.

Nintendo's ultimate problem is screwing up the obvious stuff that any idiot should spot a mile away.  Anybody with the slightest PR sense could defuse this in a second... unless it's true.

GoldenPhoenixApril 11, 2012

Yeah emphasizing that gameplay is more important to them then getting into a "My system is more powerful then yours" battle of words, is a PR blunder of an epic magnitude. Not like developers who matter haven't said nothing but positive things about what they can do with the system. I'd think that is a more important battle to win then a statement about gameplay mattering more to them then visuals.

AdrockApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Ian

It is very interesting that Nintendo has been in the videogame business way longer than Sony and MS and have outlasted old rivals like Sega and Atari and yet seem so out-of-touch.

If anything, that suggests that they know what they're doing. They didn't last this long by accident.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Ian

It is very interesting that Nintendo has been in the videogame business way longer than Sony and MS and have outlasted old rivals like Sega and Atari and yet seem so out-of-touch.

The difference is Nintendo is out of touch with hardcore gamers, whereas Sega was very much in touch with hardcore gamers... but Sega in their attempt to keep the hardcore gamers pleased made serious blunders such as the 32x and Sega CD and Saturn which sealed their fate. That's why they no longer exist.

As core gamers, Nintendo's philosophy may not be appealing to us, but from a commercial stand point its hard to argue with it. The fact they not only still exist but have made such huge amounts of money in recent years means their decisions have struck gold. Tapping into the casual market has made the company and its share holders very wealthy.

In the end this is what matters most to any company. The point is to make profit, and Nintendo has succeeded very well in this respect. Its not surprising they would want to continue that with the Wii U. Sadly, if they lose hardcore gamers in the process I think that's a sacrifice they are willing to make in order to keep raking in the cash from casuals.

broodwarsApril 11, 2012

I think the big mistake that Nintendo has made in all this is that they have allowed someone else to control this story.  That's kind of Public Relations 101: if it's harmful news, take control of the story and spin it in your favor.  It would be very easy for Nintendo to squash these rumors with even vague official statements, but instead they've allowed others to shape the message and ferment negative sentiment.  Considering these are the very people Nintendo is allegedly trying to court with the Wii U, their hands-off approach here would baffle me if it wasn't consistent with Nintendo's general inability to control their message (see how the Wii became generally considered the "casual system" where core gamers need not apply when that was allegedly not Nintendo's intent when they launched the system).

HypotheliciouslyApril 11, 2012

Actually...I think this is part of Nintendo's evil plan. Let everyone assumptions of Wii U hit rock bottom, let that fester for a couple months, then BOOOM! Hit them with graphics that turns tears to blood.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

I think a large part of Nintendo's problem is its too centralized in Japan. It is entirely in Japan where all the major company decisions are made, and the people who make these decisions have only a vague understanding of western culture, if they even have any understanding of it at all. English is not their first language either, so something like the "Wii U" name to them might seem cool and awesome, whereas in the west it would seem silly or stupid.

Keep in mind, in Japan things like Bonzai trees and rock gardens and Koi ponds are very popular, and this is the sort of cultural mentality that went into designing the Wii and Wii U. Americans are more into less subtle in your face stuff like football, that's why something like the Wii or Wii U probably never would have been made if an American company was behind it. So again its all about the culture being very different.

AdrockApril 11, 2012

Quote from: broodwars

I think the big mistake that Nintendo has made in all this is that they have allowed someone else to control this story.

At the same time, that sets a bad precedent. If Nintendo responded  to these unsubstantiated reports with more than a line we've heard dozens of times before, they invite more people to make up things to force a response. In that way, Nintendo is choosing not to allow someone else to control how they conduct business.

Perhaps the most telling sign that these reports are way off base is the fact that Nintendo has chosen to mostly ignore them. When 3DS was about to get leaked, Nintendo responded by just announcing the thing.

Ian SaneApril 11, 2012

Actually this probably would not be an issue if they didn't already do this with the Wii.  If you had this same rumour about the next Playstation or Xbox I wouldn't be as likely to believe it because it doesn't fit with their recent business practices.  If there was a rumour that Nintendo was going to have a $600 system I also would be skeptical because that ain't Nintendo, it doesn't fit them.

Releasing glorified last gen hardware?  That does fit Nintendo because they did it!  It's called the Wii U and it has a new controller gimmick.  So far it follows the Wii formula pretty closely.  Going with outdated hardware would be along the same path (as would prioritizing casuals).  The idea of Nintendo future proofing the Wii U is really more what we would LIKE to see from them.  It's what's important for the system to be relevant to core gamers but it would be a change for Nintendo from last gen.

The 3DS is a pretty conventional follow-up to the DS.  We're not asking for a conventional follow-up to the Wii, we're asking for a big change.  We're asking for Nintendo to jump out of the Wii mold and this rumour suggests that they're going to stick with it.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Ian

Releasing glorified last gen hardware?

The funny thing is if that rumor of it being weaker than the PS360 is 100% true word for word, then it wouldn't be *glorified* last gen hardware because the last gen hardware would actually be more powerful. It could be true, because remember even though the Wii is clearly more powerful than the PS2 and Gamecube, in a few respects it was actually inferior to the first Xbox.

There's really no positive way of spinning it when your console is less powerful than a competitor's console released 5 years earlier. Just being on par with the PS360 is one thing, and its bad enough, but what the rumor actually said wasn't that the Wii U was just as weak as the PS360, but that it was actually weaker.

Again, I'm just going by what the rumor actually said. I can believe the Wii U will be about on par with current hardware, but the wording of it was specifically that it was weaker. If that's true then its not "glorified" last gen hardware, but something a bit less than that. Hopefully the rumor is wrong and I'd like to believe it is, but I honestly don't know. Its not like Nintendo's reaction has done much to dispel it.

broodwarsApril 11, 2012

Quote from: Chozo

There's really no positive way of spinning it when your console is less powerful than a competitor's console released 5 years earlier.

Of course you could.  Nintendo could just say that they "received feedback from developers telling them that with the rising costs of game development, they couldn't afford to retool their studios for even more expensive projects.  So for the good of the developers, they chose to go with more conservative tech specs in-line with what 3rd party developers are already used to.  Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony are out to bankrupt the industry with more advanced tech that's prohibitively expensive for developer and consumer alike."

It's basically what Nintendo said they were doing for the Wii, except unlike the GameCube 3rd party developers actually made games for the HD consoles.

Ian SaneApril 11, 2012

Quote from: broodwars

Quote from: Chozo

There's really no positive way of spinning it when your console is less powerful than a competitor's console released 5 years earlier.

Of course you could.  Nintendo could just say that they "received feedback from developers telling them that with the rising costs of game development, they couldn't afford to retool their studios for even more expensive projects.  So for the good of the developers, they chose to go with more conservative tech specs in-line with what 3rd party developers are already used to.  Meanwhile, Microsoft and Sony are out to bankrupt the industry with more advanced tech that's prohibitively expensive for developer and consumer alike."

It's basically what Nintendo said they were doing for the Wii, except unlike the GameCube 3rd party developers actually made games for the HD consoles.

This would actually be fine IF developers really want it like that and actually put their money where their mouth is and stick with this gen instead of going for broke on Sony's and Microsoft's next systems.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

Yeah.

The PS2 had the weakest hardware of its generation (after the Dreamcast kicked the bucket), and it was a near monopoly with like 90% market share and a huge amount of 3rd party support. So the PS2 proves that you can have the weakest system and still draw in developers.

But the Wii failed to repeat that. The question is: why? With the Wii Nintendo delivered to developers a system which was simple and extremely inexpensive to develop for, but the developers refused. Instead they wasted huge amounts of money on HD games on platforms with far smaller install bases. These HD games were far more costly to develop, and many of them didn't sell very well. As a result a number of developers have struggled, or even went under this generation due to the costs.

But it didn't have to be that way. The Wii existed and they could have supported that instead. So again, why didn't they? They would literally rather commit suicide than support Nintendo hardware, and that's exactly what many of them did. I don't understand that. Is it because of a general hatred or dislike of Nintendo? Is it because Nintendo is "kiddie" and they would rather be dead than caught supporting "kiddie" hardware?

HypotheliciouslyApril 11, 2012

Why? The controller.

Unlike the PS2, where you could develop for it then transfer your goods to other systems with relative ease (keyword: relative), the Wii actually needed developers to think outside the box and use a fascinating new controller. Instead though, we had shoe-horned games, games that didn't resemble the original at all, or nothing.

Chozo GhostApril 11, 2012

Work arounds did exist, though. There was of course the classic controller, and the wiimote with chuck can be used to some effect as a standard controller.

broodwarsApril 11, 2012

I agree that the controller was the culprit as well.  Developers were still trying to wrap their head around motion control, and with much fewer buttons and a wonky control layout the Wiimote was probably considered more trouble than it was worth to try to work around.  The Classic Controller was available, of course, but Nintendo seemed to emphasize early on that this controller was made for the Virtual Console and little else.  Splitting the market by not making the CC a pack-in accessory certainly didn't help its cause.  The nunchuk certainly helps, but there's still the troublesome issue of the really bad and nonstandard button layout on the Wii Remote.

So you have these complex games you could focus on working on for the HD consoles, or you could try to somehow dumb your design down to fit within the technical abilities of the original Wiimote.  Some developers tried the latter, and some of them succeeded.  Most didn't, so developers stuck with platforms that had a standard control interface.  The Wii becoming the mini-game party machine early on in its life cycle probably didn't make the Wii look any more enticing for developers on the fence.

Ian SaneApril 11, 2012

The PS2 may have been the weakest of it's gen (well I guess technically the Dreamcast was) but it wasn't nearly as big of a gap as the Wii had.  The Wii was like if the N64 was going against the Gamecube and Xbox.  A developer could make a PS2 game and port it to the other systems and it could "pass".  You could make a Gamecube or Xbox game that looked like a PS2 game and had the restrictions on AI programming and the size of environments that the PS2 would enforce and no one would really notice otherwise.  The difference in hardware just isn't comparible.

It's also worth noting that no one gave the Wii a chance in the first place and had commited to PS360 games which had a multi-year development cycle.  Then once they were ready to start a new project the Wii had established itself as the casual shovelware console and then why bother?

AdrockApril 11, 2012

Considering how amazing games still look on current hardware, if Wii U graphics can "pass," there's nothing to worry about.

famicomplicatedJames Charlton, Staff AlumnusApril 12, 2012

The Wii U controller isn't as "off-putting" as the Wii one was, so we shouldn't have any problems there.
It's just whether Nintendo can garner enough support from 3rd party devs (of all shapes and sizes) to help sell the system, rather than relying on the 6-12 first party games trickled out every year.

If word gets around that it's hard to program for (whether that's true or not we don't know for sure yet) then smaller devs aren't even going to attempt to make games for Wii U.
Unless they make the dev kits cheap and accommodating, the online store something akin to Steam, fair profit margins etc etc, but history has shown that Nintendo are NOT good at these things, which makes things worrying.

For Xbox/Sony fans, the main thing they have to worry about for their next system is the price.
However, for us Ninty fans it's; will it have decent 3rd party games, will online work well, will it have enough core gamer games etc - a lot is riding on this E3 and we all know they're going to screw up at least one thing.

The best thing they can do is get people excited for it's final unveiling, not have its fans petrified at what could go wrong and the non-fans ignoring them outright - all thanks to bad rumours!

PodingsApril 12, 2012

I still don't think any of us are in a position to say that Nintendo don't know what they're doing, when they're outpacing the competition (except for Zynga and Apple) profit wise.

We CAN look to answer why they're doing as they are, which I think is more interesting, rather than assume that they're out of touch. They have an enormous marketing department, so whatever they do regarding rumors like weak hardware, they must have thought it the smartest move for some reason or other.
  Personally, I don't really doubt that the Wii U in some regards may be weaker than PS3/360. The Wii didn't handle shaders quite as well as the first Xbox, and I'm sure if the development kits still run on NintendoWare, shaderprogramming will STILL be an issue to some degree.

The thing about the negative rumors is that it's such a small amount of people who circulate them, and such a small amount of people who care. If Nintendo open their big corporate mouth about the issue, EVERYBODY will have their attention drawn to it. Every fan, every investor, every news site, every potential future costomer.
  Better not call attention to the discussion at all, as Nintendo at the moment seem confident that people will be pleased with Wii U's graphical prowess come E3.

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