An unidentified developer of a third-party game that launched with the Wii U — and man, that shouldn’t be too hard to narrow down — has written for Eurogamer a thorough post-mortem of his studio’s experience developing for the console. It touches familiar themes of the console’s struggles, but in a more detailed, firsthand way.
The money quote, though, comes from his team’s dealings with Nintendo as they tried to build their game’s online capabilities even though support for them would be coming very late in the console’s development. His team would offer certain scenarios to Nintendo to ask how things might work, “all the time referencing how Xbox Live and PSN achieve the same thing.
“At some point in this conversation we were informed that it was no good referencing Live and PSN as nobody in their development teams used those systems (!) so could we provide more detailed explanations for them?”
Nintendo’s inexperience with online systems and features is the biggest shortcoming the writer outlines in his recap. Indeed, they’re why the Wii U needed that crushing, 1GB mandatory day one patch: Basically, he says, Nintendo was still working on its network operating system as the console was being manufactured. (Indeed, Nintendo wouldn’t start shipping consoles that didn’t need the patch until well into 2013.)
Launch day came around and the answer became clear: Nintendo was late — very late — with its network systems. In fact, the only way to access their systems fully was to download a big patch on day one that added all these missing components. Without that patch a lot of the release titles would have been only semi-functional.
The remainder of the piece adds an informed, technical underpinning to the notion that, in terms of performance, the Wii U rests more in the spectrum of the previous console generation than the current one. Nintendo wanted it to consume less power so the machine would have a quiet living room aesthetic, he writes, thus its processor “might even struggle to do current-gen (PS3 and X360) titles.”
All this raises a legitimate question about the console’s future, if third-party studios are faced with developing a title that can sell better on two high-powered consoles, and the effort needed to port it onto a poorly selling platform. “The notion of next-gen titles being easily portable to the Wii U just doesn’t work,” he says. “The gulf in power is just too high,” and other features are incompatible.
“The first-party developers at Nintendo will make the hardware sing — they always do — but the situation looks grim for those of us in third-party development.”
It’s a long, warts-and-all read, definitely worth your time on a Sunday.
Secret Developers: Wii U — The Inside Story[Eurogamer]