One of the biggest knocks against Nintendo over the past two decades has always been the lack of third-party support on their home video game consoles. Just look at the Wii; it’s a souped up GameCube with fancy motion controls that helped it become a hit, but the horsepower under the hood was a generation behind the competition. Some of today’s best-selling game franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield and Grand Theft Auto are far beyond what the Wii is capable of supporting.
With Wii U, Nintendo is taking a radically different approach than they have in the past. There will still be an emphasis on appealing to younger audiences and families with Mario, Zelda, and the like, but the new console will be capable of running any game designed to push Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to the max. That opens the doors for third party developers to return to the Nintendo home console space with their most complex and profitable projects.
Initially it may seem like third parties will have to develop separate Wii U versions of a game due to the controller having a built-in screen that can interact and even replace the main monitor. Please recall the “Untethered DS” nickname I gave Wii U in my last article. Will developing a game or porting a game onto Wii U from Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 be radically different than porting or developing a game for Nintendo 3DS? Both systems utilize dual-screens, after all, with one screen touch and the other for viewing only.
There are obviously differences between the 3DS and Wii U such as motion controls and being able to take the entire game away from the main monitor and play it on the controller. At its core, the design process for a Wii U game is not that radically different than a Nintendo 3DS game. It might even be a little easier since developers don’t have to worry about the 3D element.
Several third-party developers and publishers have already jumped on the Wii U locomotive including Ubisoft, EA, THQ, SEGA, WB Interactive, Vicarious Visions, Disney Interactive, Irrational Games, EA Sports, Namco Bandai, and 5th Cell. The third-party upcoming software sizzle reel that “may contain content inappropriate for children” shows there’s a strong push to lure hardcore gamers formerly ignored by Nintendo to Wii U. There’s no cute, fluffy or party/dancing games amongst the lineup that includes Darksiders II, Dirt, Aliens Colonial Marines, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online, Metro Last Night, Tekken, and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge.
It’s too early to know exactly how their games will take advantage of Wii U. Speculation is fun, so let’s take a closer look at SEGA’s Aliens Colonial Marines. With the extra screen on the Wii U controller you could theoretically watch your motion tracker on it while the main screen remains on the first-person perspective looking ahead. You could also use the Wii U controller screen to see through the vantage point of stationary sentry guns while you battle in another area.
What would be really cool is if a four-player cooperative game had the player with the screen in the “Gorman” role while the other three players with Wii Remotes were Marines. The Wii U controller character would see the action through the cameras on the Marines’ helmets, but also have access to maps, shortcuts and other valuable information that he could relay by voice. The marines, in turn, would see the Wii U controller player’s face in the corner of the screen thanks to the front-facing camera.
I have another idea for Aliens Colonial Marines but it raises some questions about the Wii U controller options. That question, and many others, will be shared in part 4 of this Wii U series.
– Dan Bradley
Wii U Week Part 1: Announcement Reaction
Wii U Week Part 2: Hands-On and a New Nickname
Wii U Week Part 3: Third Party Support
Wii U Week Part 4: Questions and Concerns
Wii U Week Part 5: Optimism Prevails