Report: Wii U dev kits "underclocked"

Current projects not up to final visual standards

Developers working on titles for Wii U are reportedly using development kits which have been underclocked, meaning that the graphics they produce are almost indistinguishable from a PS3 or 360.

A report from consulting firm Hit Detection has suggested that Nintendo chose to show tech demos at it's E3 reveal "due to titles not looking much better than what is currently available on Xbox 360 and the PS3, Nintendo decided late in the game to not show those titles."

"Developers have underclocked development kits, and worked hard to deliver titles running on that hardware to demonstrate live at E3," reads the report.

"THQ stated that Darksiders II was running on development hardware and could have been shown. Also, Epic vice president Mark Rein tweeted during E3 that Gearbox's Aliens: Colonial Marines was being made for Wii U with Unreal Engine 3, showing that Epic is bringing its tech to Wii U."

However, third party developers have told GI that the Wii U is expected to exceed current consoles. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said that visual quality should be "at least" that of the 360.

"It should be even superior for some of the games. We don't know everything, so we have a few things Nintendo is telling us that will have such and such powers."

Hit Detection was founded by influential games journalist N'Gai Croal.

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Latest comments (9)

Could be good news, as it will allow developers to max out code for a launch release.

Then allow them to really delve into the system once they have some more experience to really push the console to it's limits.

Very interesting move by Nintendo
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University9 years ago
Given the defining feature of Wii U is its ability to stream content to the controller--including full, visually demanding games--I would have been surprised if the machine didn't exceed the capabilities of PS3 and 360, especially if Nintendo plan on supporting more than one tablet down the line. Since Nintendo use readily available, proven, off the shelf components, by now it would probably be more difficult to find and mass produce components that result in a final machine less capable than 360/PS3, since the tech in those machines in 5/6 years old, and has improved in efficiency since release. Rumours indicate the tech in Wii U is around 2 years old and is subject to change before release, so it really shouldn't be surprising if this machine is more capable than the current HD machines. It won't be cutting edge, certainly, but it doesn't really need to be.

It's a good move, really. Build a machine with launch software that is technically on par or slightly better than the current machines, but make it powerful enough to leave developers room to experiment and push game engines beyond what can be done on PS3/360. If Nintendo then have enough time to build a sizeable install base, and third parties make money and sell decent amounts of software on Wii U, third parties may think twice when they consider Xbox 3 or PS4 as their lead console for development. If there's still room to push Wii U without pushing costs incredibly high, and the Wii U market is growing in terms of users and is profitable, why push development costs higher and profit margins lower to move onto devices that haven't hit the market?? Especially considering how many jobs have been lost and firms closed during the early years of this generation, as developers struggled with the rocketing cost of development. It isn't just Sony and Microsoft who want to extend this console cycle--I've a feeling many third party publishers will want to make sure they get the most out of their investments over the last 5 years, and Nintendo could very well be offering them a chance to do just that, and perhaps more.

It's early to speculate that this could be the way things go, but I can't help but think there's a possibility Nintendo have out-maneuvered Microsoft and Sony yet again, and that's one of the reasons why they're keeping so much information behind closed doors. They've forced them to invest in Kinect and Move, even while the original costs of PS3 and 360 r&d hadn't been recouped. In the mean time, Wii has made Nintendo billions in profit, allowing them to invest in this new console and bring it to market (potentially) one or two years ahead of their rivals. The big question mark over the success of this plan is whether or not third parties really can make a successful market for themselves on Wii U, and whether or not Nintendo can help them with that--perhaps an even bigger question is, even if Nintendo create that third party support, can they sustain it?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Daniel Hughes on 16th June 2011 12:51pm

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Its the Gamecube versus the Xbox versus the Playstation 2 senario all over again.
The GC was more powerful than the PS2 through it's entire life cycle, and got SOME, but very little, third party support; like from Capcom with the beautiful RE4. I truly believe Nintendo doesn't have a hope with 3rd party software ever again. The hardcore just don't buy 3rd party software on Nintendo systems.

And Nintendo can court all the 3rd parties that they want.
Sure, Grand Theft Auto V will be on the Wii U, but guess which console will sell more copies of it? It's going to be either the 360 or the PS3. Especially since in this case, the install base for both of those systems is literrally 10s of millions ahead of the Wii U.

3rd parties and the consumer can be excited about the Wii U's upgrade in graphic fidelity, but what will it matter in 3 years? in 5 years? The PS3 and the 360 output HD graphics already, and they're headed towards the end of their life cycle. They output theses graphics ALREADY.
Why would anyone buy a Wii U version of a third party game, when the 360/PS3 version offers the same thing, minus the gimmicky input device? It's clear there will be a Kinect or a Move version either way, anyway.

All the Wii U does now is bring Nintendo into the HD era, allowing 3rd party developers to develop their titles now for ALL 3 systems, only to have the most copies of these titles to be sold on the PS3 and the 360.

Sony and MS will come out with the NextBox and the PS4 in 2-5 years, and Nintendo will be behind their curve at that point. And you can be sure Sony and MS will have their own version of some off-beat controller input at that time.

People only buy a Nintendo system for their first party titles, and that's it. Maybe the Raving Rabbits 3rd party party game stuff too, but that's it. It's been like this since the N64. But, since that time, Sony and MS have jumped in and taken that demographic from Nintendo.

Third party titles are almost a novelty on a Nintendo system. Look at the Golden Eye remake for the Wii, The Conduit, god, what else? What about the Gamecube? Eternal Darkness, was it?
All great games! But did it sell systems? Nope.

Nintendo systems sell Nintendo games.

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Show all comments (9)
Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.9 years ago
Hey, Terrence, you'll never break a cycle if you don't try.

Didn't I just say Nintendo is damned if you do, damned if you don't in a different story?
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Neil Young Programmer, Rebellion Developments9 years ago
underclocking on the pre-production dev hardware isn't too surprising - if nintendo haven't locked the exact details of the production hardware down yet, they can't be sure of final clock speeds etc, so are presumably being conservative to avoid launch titles needing last minute re-writes to scale back.
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Jimmy, nicely said! You can't if you don't try.

I'm just fed up with Nintendo pipe dreams, having been a Nintendo fanboy through the 64, GCN, and the beginning of the Wii era's. I seriously giggle at the thought of Darksiders II for a Wii system.

History will repeat itself here, I'm absolutely sure of it.
Nintendo has to have a huge penetration rate first of all to convince 3rd party to make and expect games to sell on their system. And good luck to them! I still love Nintendo.
Clearly, the Wii U is going to sell well in Japan.
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Tony Johns9 years ago
At least Nintendo have said that any game running on the current XBox360 and PS3 can run on a WiiU, and there is a little extra room for higher framerates and higher graphical power to the WiiU even if it is only just a bit.

I have long been a supporter of Nintendo not trying to be too much in the graphics power but being just enough to make the games look good for their systems.

I have loved Nintendo since the NES days, and I know going back to those games on earlier systems via the Wii's Virtual Console that I know graphics are not everything, but they can help on some occasions.

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Jamie Watson Studying Bachelor of Games & Interactive Entertainment, Queensland University of Technology9 years ago

Well maybe the need some guys to come in and "Overclock" them :P

in all serious isnt most early console dev kits not that powerful then current generation consoles anyway?

So what is the big deal about this?

this good to to see it coming along nicely.
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Stephen McCarthy Studying Games Technology, Kingston University9 years ago
it getting to the point where i do not know if i like or hate Nintendo with what they are doing.
so I just going to see how this plays out.
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