Iwata: Wii U graphics can compete with next gen consoles

Nintendo president claims "fewer differentiators" in graphics performance for third-party software

Nintendo's Satoru Iwata has reassured the company's shareholders that the Wii U will not be left behind by Sony and Microsoft's next generation of consoles.

During Nintendo's general meeting of shareholders, one of the attendees raised a concern about the Wii U eventually being neglected by third-party companies in favour of Xbox and PlayStation - a significant problem for the Wii later in its life-cycle.

However, while Iwata accepted that there would be some gulf in graphics performance, he suggested that advances in this area were becoming less significant in terms of software.

"We cannot promise that the Wii U will never be excluded from multi-platform software for eternity, but we can at least assure you that the Wii U will not have such a big difference as the Wii had in comparison to how, on other platforms, developers could expect very different graphic capabilities of generating HD-applicable high-resolution graphics," Iwata responded.

"The difference between the Wii U and the other consoles will not be so drastic because there will be fewer and fewer differentiators in graphics"

"Other companies might launch a next-generation console with more power, but...the difference between the Wii U and such console will be as drastic as what you felt it was between the Wii and the other consoles because there will be fewer and fewer differentiators in graphics.

"Naturally some consumers are very sensitive about such a small difference in graphics so that we will make efforts to make the most of the performance of the Wii U to keep up with technological innovations and not to make the system out-of-date soon."

The meeting was predictably dominated by questions regarding Nintendo's stock price and profitability, and Iwata repeatedly asked for patience from the attendees. In Nintendo's view, the company's market value will improve as hardware sales increase, and that is more likely to happen after the release of the Wii U.

Iwata noted that the 3DS has achieved consistent sales performance in Japan - amounting to 55 per cent of all hardware sales - where handheld devices are regarded as the most important hardware for gaming. However, he admitted that the 3DS was still performing below expectations in Europe and the US.

"The momentum in the U.S. and Europe is currently weak," Iwata said. "Considering that the U.S. and European markets are larger than the Japanese market in terms of the size of the population, sales in the U.S. and Europe are supposed to be larger.

"At the year end of 2011 the sales momentum in those markets increased in the same way as in Japan; however, the sales pace went down after the beginning of 2012. As a result, the sales proportion of the Nintendo 3DS is now about 20% of the total video game sales in those markets. Thus, solid sales momentum has not been created."

However, Iwata also showed survey data - gathered earlier this year - to suggest that the console is held in similar esteem by gamers in Europe and the US as the handheld is in Japan. In addition, in the US the majority of survey participants still regarded the Wii as the most attractive gaming platform.

"The reason why the Wii's proportion is so high despite its sales situation not being so strong is, memories of playing with the Wii make such a strong impression on people that they remain in their minds, so the Wii is chosen as the most attractive game system even now. Conversely, for us to launch the Wii U, this is a very valuable asset and is considered favourable data."

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Latest comments (16)

Jay Waters Lead Sound Designer, SUMO Digital5 years ago
...the difference between the Wii U and such console will be as drastic as what you felt it was between the Wii and the other consoles...
Surely there's a fairly important 'not' missing from this sentence?
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Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
"During Nintendo's general meeting of shareholders, one of the attendees raised a concern about the Wii U eventually being neglected by third-party companies in favour of Xbox and PlayStation - a significant problem for the Wii later in its life-cycle."

When did Wii ever see the same kind of support offered to Xbox 360 and Playstation 3? It never did, it was neglected from day one by third parties, that's the simple truth. There was never meaningful, consistent support for the system. I'm not saying Wii U's third party support is a picture of health, but it's better than what Wii had at launch. Third parties have to build quality games if they want to compete on Nintendo system; that was the exception and not the rule with Wii, and that's why there wasn't a market for third parties as time went on. The notion that third party games don't sell well on Nintendo systems becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"The meeting was predictably dominated by questions regarding Nintendo's stock price and profitability, and Iwata repeatedly asked for patience from the attendees. In Nintendo's view, the company's market value will improve as hardware sales increase, and that is more likely to happen after the release of the Wii U."

Well, this is just common sense. I have a feeling Nintendo can't win over many investors, though, because investors chase short term gain. Nintendo move for long term profitability and stability. Wii U will grow Nintendo's bottom line and raw unit sales, with a little help from more favourable currency exchanges, but it won't show the kind of percentage increases Wii did, and that's what investors will look at, and that's inevitably what will dictate Nintendo's share price. Even if Wii U is more successful than Wii in the long-run, Nintendo won't have the benefit of huge percentage increases in profitability and marketshare the way they did with Wii and DS.

Also, this is what Iwata said:"but we don't necessarily think that the difference between the Wii U and such console will be as drastic as what you felt it was between the Wii and the other consoles, because there will be fewer and fewer differentiators in graphics."

You've paraphrased that one rather poorly ;-)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Daniel Hughes on 4th July 2012 11:09am

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Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
I'd disagree with Daniel and say publishers did try to support the Wii after it began to pick up a real audience. EA, Sega etc set up specific divisions just for Wii games, but they eventually failed because the publishers didn't understand who was buying the machine. So titles like House of the Dead from Sega and EA's All-Play sports label tanked because they were aimed at the core consumer.
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Show all comments (16)
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
Would House of the Dead have succeeded on 360 and PS3, though, Matt? That's the thing that often gets overlooked. Third parties DID support Wii to an extent, and some publishers did brilliantly to tap into the expanded audience Nintendo created. Tiger Woods, EA Sports Active, Zumba, Carnival Games, Mario & Sonic Olympics, Just Dance were all multi-million selling hits.

But the games aimed at the core consumer, where they of the same kind of caliber that came to 360 and PS3? Ports of Resident Evil 4, Okami came to Wii. No More Heroes was excellent, Little King's Story was excellent, but both were niche games that wouldn't sell strongly on any system. Madworld was distinctly average, The Conduit below par. House of the Dead was one of several (including two Resident Evils, Sin & Punishment, Link's Crossbow Training and others) lightgun games available on Wii--a successful core genre on the system, but not one that could sustain that many games and one that became over-saturated quickly.

The point I'm making is when did third parties put their best teams, and real marketing money, into core game development on the Wii, in the way they did with HD platforms? They didn't. That audience WAS there at one point, but they had very little to buy outside of Nintendo titles. And look at how well the best 'core' Nintendo games sold. Twilight Princess is the second best selling Zelda game. Metroid Prime 3 was one of the best selling Metroid games. Galaxy 1 sold 10 million copies, its sequel 6 million at a quieter time of year AND with New Super Mario Bros Wii to compete with. Brawl, one of the most hardcore of Nintendo games, has sold in excess of 10 million copies. And that leaves aside an abundance of million selling titles. The lower quality Nintendo games, whether casual or core, sold relatively poorly--look at Wii Music, Animal Crossing (up to 3 million, versus sales in excess of 20 million for Nintendo's other casual games), and Metroid: Other M, which didn't even break a million globally. Nintendo games don't automatically sell well, is the point there.

There was a market there for core games, but third parties didn't do enough to tap into it. Yes, they had Nintendo to compete with, but to do that, they needed to bring their A game--both in terms of development team and marketing--to Wii, and no third party did that consistently or meaningfully. One of the higher budget non-Nintendo core games (Monster Hunter Tri) was huge in Japan, but also became the best selling Monster Hunter game in the West--partially because it was a very strong core game that offered strong single player and free online play, but also because Nintendo marketed and distributed it, ensuring high quality and very visible marketing.

I don't doubt some third parties tried on Wii, nor that there were good third party offerings on Wii. But close to none were as good as, or advertised as well as, or simply had the market appeal, that third party games on 360 and PS3 had. That's why third party games on Nintendo systems performing poorly is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, because people cite the Wii as the example. They don't look back to the SNES and think "Well gee, if it's top quality and advertised well, it can compete with Nintendo and other titles on other platforms". I know the market's change, but when it comes to core games, quality and broad appeal does sell--and those third party games didn't really come to Wii at all.
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I agree with one thing - regardless of how powerful the next-gen of consoles are, there will be a much smaller difference in the output between the WiiU and those consoles - compared to the Wii vrs 360/PS3.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
The fact is that now that the Wii U is running similar architecture (unlike the PS360 vs the Wii) almost any graphical difference is surmountable and portable, and games will scale down much better than before.
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Andy Samson QA Supervisor, Digital Media Exchange5 years ago
Most people can't easily tell the difference between a 1st generation PS3/360 game and games that are coming out later this year. The core audience easily disregard it took more than 5 years to reach that level of visuals, and the Wii U will be bringing the same quality and detail (or better) once it gets out.

The potential of how games will look after that is still up in the air. We'll just have to wait until more concrete details get revealed officially. Nintendo is quick to learn from their mistakes, the difference in graphics this generation will be just like Ps2 to XBOX, or Dreamcast to PS2. Wii U owners won't be missing much.
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Face facts, all tech specs for Gen-8 consoles are disappointing. The PS3 forced many manufacturers to reconsider power against pipe (expensive hardware offered zero return)!

Stock /share holders in Nintendo are concerned they are too late to the online party, and that is why they have dumped some execs and hired new 'online' capable staff.

The PS4 and XB8 will all under-perform in the graphics department, but the hope is DLC will keep them fresh - and the publishers using their influence can keep the media from reporting the more powerful PC equivalents (as we saw at E3)!
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
The argument some people seem to make about why should third-parties should support Xbox 360/PS3 over Wii is that some games failed on the HD consoles as well. And it's a fact - not every game is successful, but clearly there were issues finding an audience on the Wii; if third-party publishers had seen the audience there they clearly would have continued to support the Wii with more product.

Red Steel 2 was by all opinions better than its original incarnation but it didn't do terribly well. No More Heroes 2 also failed to deliver the sales of its first incarnation; the Boom Blox follow up did so poorly that EA dissolved the studio involved. The Conduit and MadWorld got TV spend and massively underperformed. Dead Space Extraction was pretty well received but it was a disappointment with EA. Despite a positive reception for Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (better than Homecoming), the next major Silent Hill release came to PS3/Xbox 360, something I can only imagine was motivated by sales reasons. Tatsunoko vs. Capcom didn't prompt Capcom to bring more titles to Wii. These are all slightly later core releases for the Wii and the success (or lack thereoff) has resulted in the lack of any third-party core releases on the Wii right now.

Also Nintendo "core" title success =/= third-party core success. There's an audience who plays Nintendo systems for Nintendo games almost exclusively and getting their attention when you have a brand that isn't well established can be an issue.

It's hard to say why exactly software sales tapered off - maybe people got tired of the motion controls or maybe they preferred to play games in HD. Regardless, a lot of these Wii titles suffered from the diminishing "middle class" of games, since while these were all genuine efforts to make something out of the Wii, they also never approached the biggest of the big budgets.

As for the question at hand about graphics... honestly, can we just put this question on hold for several months? There's very little to say about the next-gen consoles right now, and until we get some head to head comparisons, I'd rather people from both sides to hold off until reasonable statements can be made about the capabilities - right now we're just spitballing.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
David, I think the graphics statement from Iwata is valid given that the Wii used a fixed pipeline based GPU and a TEV which was compared the unified programmable shader based GPU's of the PS3 and X360. That difference was huge for developers as it meant they had to rework a lot of assets and code, if not completely rewrite the engine itself, for the Wii to have the same game as the PS3 and X360.

Given that the Wii U will utilize the same GPU shader architecture as the PS4 and Next X, that gulf will not be as vast for developers to overcome.

Consider how modern PC GPU's of all varieties can still run the same games. Granted some run them much better and/or can utilize a few graphical features that others cannot, the scalability factor alone doesn't discount mid range GPU's from being capable of running modern PC games against a high end GPU (of which neither the PS4 or Next X will utilize anyway due to heat and cost).
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
@ David You're right, there were some disappointments, but of all those games you mentioned only one had BOTH commercial advertising and good quality, and that's Red Steel 2, which did indeed underperform (it only sold about 500K worldwide, which was enough to make money, but not a ton of it).

No More Heroes 2 did WAY better than the HD remake of No More Heroes Did (almost sold 3 times as much). The Conduit was bad. MadWorld had little advertising, niche appeal, and disappointing critical reception. Dead Space Extraction was YET ANOTHER lightgun game in a genre that had burnt itself out by flooding the Wii long before its release. Silent Hill was a PS2 port and had no TV advertising (and btw it actually did quite well, nearing 500K sold on Wii despite that). No one in the west knows who the hell Tatsunoko is (they aren't even that prolific in Japan) which doomed TvC long before release.

There is only one core franchise that came to Wii consistently with advertising, and that's Call of Duty, which did well over 1 million on every release, despite being a VERY crappy port. Goldeneye's remake did well over 1.5 million on Wii, while doing far less on PS360 even when combining their sales. Sonic games sold better on Wii EVERY time, with Colors selling almost as much on Wii alone as Generations did on PS360 (and when you add in the DS version it did sell more AND made SEGA much more money). Monster Hunter not only outsold every PS2 entry but became the best selling game in the franchise in the west, beating out all the already established PSP games.

If I asked you what the big 3rd party games were this generation, David, you never would have even suggested one of those games. You have to DIG to find those games. Not one of the actual flagship franchises even took a chance on Wii. Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock, Mass Effect, Batman, Assassin's Creed, Battlefield, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Tekken, Street Fighter, Marvel vs Capcom, Dead Rising, Lost Planet, Dead Space (the real one); none of these games even TRIED putting a main entry on Wii. The big Western selling games simply didn't exist.

You calling those half-assed side projects real third party support is completely ludicrous, much less you using them as a measure of the Wii's success with third parties. There is indeed no guarantee third parties would have had great success on the Wii, but one thing is assured: They never tried, and those that did try were too sparse and too rare. A steady stream of content is essential to hold consumer interest, and third parties never cared enough to do so, largely to their own loss.

Look at how much this generation has ravaged third party profits outside of Activision (including the closing of almost two dozen studios)... now imagine how few would survive another major tech leap and dev cost increase. If Western publishers in particular don't get away from the "blockbuster syndrome" established by HD game systems, then they will not be part of the console games industry much longer. Do you really think they were better off putting these budgets into HD development for more sales and much less money than they would have been making Wii games? Maybe they were, but we'll never really know.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 5th July 2012 6:21pm

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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.5 years ago
I have to completely agree with Nicholas on this. Monster Hunter 3 was the ONLY major production by a 3rd party developer that utilized their primary team and was fully advertised. Everything else was a "test", a bone, a scrap, farmed out, port, niche, no advertised (some publishers even admitted to not doing a single TV advert for their "big" Wii game) excuse.

Publishers and developers plan their console cycle years in advance. The GC did badly and the Wii's power and architecture meant their plans put Wii as far on the back burner as you could place it. To their surprise it sold great and they scrambled to ride that train that was leaving the station without them. That meant pitiful support from day 1 and every day since.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee5 years ago

Shader based graphics, multi-core architecture. The differences won't be as dramatic as Wii vs 360/PS3 and they can compete.

If games look anything like the tech demo for Zelda and as long as you can run accurate real-time effects as seen in engines like CryEngine3, there won't be much to complain about.

What they won't be able to do is compete at the 'top level' but I don't think it will be a big problem from a Nintendo perspective.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
Point of fact Nicholas, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was devolved for the Wii and was later ported to the PS2.

Call of Duty sells regardless of platform (I'm pretty sure the DS ports sold well too) that's the main takeaway there. And as for Sonic, that's actually a good example of a title set up to do well on the Wii because it had large mainstream following. The amount of beloved, family friendly franchises with a following decades in the making is small... in fact, most of those franchises that qualify are owned by Nintendo. As for Monster Hunter, it didn't do terribly but it's the only game in the series in my memory to get any sort of push in the West (for as big as it is in Japan, Capcom USA treats MH releases very unceremoniously)... of course since then Capcom has re-purposed the IP for it's true purpose which is portable games, that's where they shine.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was another good example of a large mainstream brand selling well on the Wii and not because the game was generally that well received. Epic Mickey sold fairly well, but I'd say that was more due to the brand power and advertising pull of Disney rather than that the game was that great.

Most of the games I mentioned were original IPs, or not as well established. Original game IP struggling on the Wii is as much the reason why the Wii release schedule is so dry right now as anything out.

There were some genuinely bad games made for the system that I did not cite because they were not genuine attempts to make a good game. The Castlevania and Soul Calibur game for Wii were just bad and never going to make any money. I would argue the glut of bad software was another issue that third-parties had to deal with.

I wouldn't argue that the Wii received equal support compared to the HD console (it didn't) but things were stacked against that. Firstly, making an HD game meant release on two consoles as opposed to one and also potentially the PC market. Secondly, porting an HD game to the Wii meant creating new assets, changing areas to accommodate the Wii's capabilities and incorporating the motion control: so pretty much rebuilding the game from the ground up (see Dead Rising: Chop Till you Drop as an example of this gone wrong). This is assuming that the developers even wanted to make such a conversion of their game.

We could argue theoreticals until we're blue in the face; maybe it would have been best if the industry just kept developing for the PS2 given it's established base but that's just not the way things work. We have to base things on what actually happened; that's certainly what publishers did and when they saw the lackluster results and refocused elsewhere.

And the fact of the matter is that smaller studios have re-purposed these past few years... but it's been on things like downloadable titles, social games and mobile games. The mid-core has a rough go at it in retail so it's generally gone the digital route and not always through traditional channels. Releasing a Wii game might be less expensive than a full HD game, but it's a lot more than most digital titles.

To get back to the original point of this, I think the Wii U is set up to have better support. One, the games won't necessarily have to be torn down and remade as much as they did for Wii. Secondly, the main controller can operate like a regular gamepad so there's no extraneous bolting on of motion controls where they were never meant to be. Whether it gets that support is a whole other matter and much of that decision making is going to be based around success of the third-party line up around launch, for better or worse.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd5 years ago
I imagine the Wii U will get most ports regardless. Given how similar in architecture it is to current and next generation consoles and PCs, there's little reason to not make your games multiplatform. The chance of not making that investment back is very very small. Companies that do choose not to (and Take Two is already going that route) I think are making a silly mistake. Even if a Wii U port of, say, GTAV sells only 500K (unquestionably a worst case scenario) that would surely be profitable for very little time and cost.
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Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 5 years ago
@ Nicholas Pantazis - I completely agree with your post...

At the end of the day its not that making games for the Wii=failure... It just means third parties had to make better games. i also belive if third parties put more effort in actually making a good game and money on advertizing third party Wii games could have sold more. But I think most third parties developed games for Wii, in the same manner they would for PS3 or 360, which i belive is a mistake.
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