Western developers, beware of Wii U

March 14, 2012

Nintendo seem to have put themselves in a similar boat as when they revelead the underpowered hardware of the Wii-system. Many gamers, many gaming journalists and also many developers hated the ancient SD-resolution, when compared to Xbox 360´s and PlayStation 3´s shiny HD-graphics. Nobody knows for sure, but it´s the most reasonable bet to assume that Wii U will be a console near a 360 in power and not much more. Rumors have it that it´s stronger in some, but even weaker in other areas of its architecture. However, setting all that tech-talk aside, the Wii still became the market leading system. Even without the support of third party developers, with a most apparent lack of western developed titles. But be careful, dear western developers: The Wii U could hurt you sensitively. 

This came to my mind when I thought about Nintendo´s chances in the future video game market: There´s a huge likelihood that a big split between western and eastern developers will happen in terms of supporting Nintendo´s new system. Western developers won´t be very fond of the Wii U, it´s not hard to figure that out. They´re happy with their 360 and PS3, and they´re ready to jump to the “true next gen”, whenever MS und Sony launch it. Mark Rein already subtly trolled Nintendo again by commenting about how great games would look on the Wii U using Unreal Engine 3. Meaning nothing other than that Epic won´t bring UE4 to the Wii U.

Meanwhile, we have a very different situation in Japan. Here, the 360 is irrelevant and even the PS3 is doing not-so-great numbers. The country´s gaming-industry is being dictated by handhelds, currently 3DS and PSP. What that means is that there is no dominating HD-system, since the only kinda relevant HD-console hasn´t reached a market-leading position even after a whole generation´s time. And this is the environment that the Wii U´s about to launch in. And they´ve already secured an improved version of Dragon Quest 10 for their lineup. And any PS3-support could easily result in automatic multiplatform-support. Following the current flow of Nintendo-software being “hot”, leading healthy relationships with Japanese third-party developers and launching in a market that hasn´t really experienced HD-games yet, I see Nintendo having the potential to dominate the Japanese gaming market with the Wii U like no system has ever done before.

And that is where the split between west and east is happening. I don´t see western developers supporting Nintendo beyond some ports, yet I see eastern developers putting their all on the Wii U (besides the 3DS). How that could be a dangerous situation for western developers? Think about it. The Wii dominated the current gen videogame market almost by Nintendo alone.  There´s not a single third-party game for the Wii that could be called a “system-maker”, a title that helped form the system´s dominance. All the games that made the Wii successful came from Nintendo themselves. So get this: If the Wii U gets the same first-party support, then gets the highest quality support from Japanese studious, both, but especially the former, with enormous global appeal, where does this leave western developers? Assuming they´re as keen of neglecting Nintendo-systems as they´ve been all those past years. Western developers have attained a certain style of creating graphics-intensive game experiences, aka EXPENSIVE games that need to sell a lot to gain back the invested budget. Should Nintendo be able to keep their own software´s appeal and combine it with the unified support of all your favorite Japanese third-party studios, ignoring and not supporting the Wii U could turn out to be one big risk. Too big of a risk, to be precise. You might convince yourself that next gen is a repeat of this gen, but that won´t be true if Nintendo starts dominating the Japanese HD-videogame market.