Nintendo's Wii U "Trouble" - Yeah, It Happens
Moving release dates and struggles with hardware are natural.
September 8, 2011
Nintendo seems to be dominating the news these days, and often for all the worst reasons. Struggling sales, price drops, dipping stocks and awkward peripherals are stacking up, creating a grim scenario for a company that has been on top of the world for the past several years. The big guy in the yard is a big target, and given Nintendo's unconventional approach to the games industry, criticism is all the easier.
The latest from the rumor mill comes from 01net, a French site that admittedly has been fairly accurate for a number of 3DS and Vita rumors. The site's latest story dives into Wii U's supposed "development hell." The article claims all is not well as Nintendo works toward a 2012 launch of its next home console.
According to the report, there are a few key issues going on right now. Developers are complaining about Nintendo's low-cost policy, which is potentially contributing to the controller's "inadequate" chipset and three, potentially four, prototype revisions. The controller is also wired to the development kit. Those working on games are complaining that they aren't receiving updates for the system fast enough, and that they aren't able to fully test some of Wii U's features.
Continuing the list of problems is speculation that developers are expecting the release of the system to shift. June 2012 has been the theoretical target for Wii U, though it's thought that September might be a new target given some of the developmental troubles. This, of course, could be problematic for Nintendo given that the longer Wii U is off store shelves, the greater the possibility that a new Xbox or PlayStation will steal its thunder.
What's remarkable about all of the above is that none of it is out of the ordinary. A console that has development challenges? Wouldn't that be any tech project? The day a hardware company doesn't have to balance price and quality considerations is the day Mario performs a fatality. It's absurd to think there won't be bumps along the road. Any thought to the contrary is delusional. Every tech company struggles with those issues, and we've seen some cases (most recently the Xbox 360) where some shortcuts lead to devastating problems. That's why hardware designs continuously evolve as a system heads towards final production.
No doubt some developers aren't getting updates as quickly as they'd like. No doubt devkits are constantly evolving and iterating. That's sort of the point, isn't it? Developing for a console before its launch is, to some degree, like hitting a moving target. Developers get estimates as hardware publishers sort out exactly what's feasible. Final products rarely resemble their earliest iterations.
Early Wii U kits were screens fixed onto planks of wood. Early DS kits only had one screen. Wii kits were actually GameCube kits with wired versions of the remotes - Nintendo hadn't determined whether the project would simply be an expansion of the GameCube or not. Nintendo 3DS prototypes didn't feature 3D at all. As Nintendo's designs evolved, developers were brought into the fold.
Nothing is ever perfect. Nothing is ever fast enough. There is no perfect piece of hardware or development cycle, and some developers will figure things out faster than others.
As far as release dates go, the notion that Wii U is slipping later into 2012 isn't all that surprising, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Nintendo would be wise not to ship the system until it's completely ready. Look at the Nintendo 3DS and try to say otherwise.
Of course, a shift in release date does bring risks. That Wii U will eventually have to contend with new Microsoft and Sony consoles is inevitable. Nintendo needs to have answers to those problems, and part of that will be the fact that Wii U's control scheme allows for better, more creative games than its counterparts. But we've seen consoles with hardware disadvantages dominate the industry before, and if Nintendo approaches its third party partners in the right ways, the company's software struggles will be a thing of the past.
Trying to paint a grim picture of Wii U's development is easy because it's always evolving. Is something in a fluid state part of the natural order or is it chaos? It's easy to look at the issue in both ways. One is simply more realistic.
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