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Developer Gives Inside Look At Wii U Development Troubles

Posted by: , 02:56 AEDT, Fri January 17, 2014

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The reason third-party developers are ignoring the Wii U spelled out by anonymous developer who worked on a Wii U game
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Image/Photo Credit: Nintendo

A developer who worked on one of the early third-party Wii U games has shared his (or her) experience on working with the Wii U, and provides ample examples of the problems that are making third-party developers to abandon the platform.

The developer, who remains anonymous, talked to Eurogamer about the Wii U's weak CPU, of things lost in translation, and how Nintendo may have underestimated the difficulty in moving from developing for the Wii to the Wii U.

The first "alarm bells", according to the developer, rang when Nintendo presented their design ideology for the Wii U. Instead of offering a truly next-gen powerhouse of a console, Nintendo instead chose to focus on making a non-intrusive small and quiet console that "mum wouldn't mind having it in the living room".

This eventually led to a console that, while more powerful than the Xbox 360 and PS3 on some fronts, was also weaker in other areas. And compared to the PS4/Xbox One, in the words of the secret developer: "it comes off very badly indeed - it just cannot compete with the new consoles."

When it came to the actual coding, Nintendo also failed to give developers all the help they needed. From poor and missing documentation, to questions that required weeks to receive an answer for (due to the need to translate English questions to Japanese, and then translate the Japanese answers back to English), tools that were slow and hard to use - it made getting the best out of the Wii U an impossible task.

Even first-party developers, whom Nintendo is increasing relying on to save the Wii U, seems to find it difficult to develop for the Wii U according to the secret developer. The difficult of moving from the Wii's SD to the Wii U's HD gaming is at the core of these problems.

The worst aspect of development was with the online features, according to the anonymous developer. Nintendo had underestimated the challenges of setting up their own version of PSN or Xbox Live (and failed to provide answers to basic questions on how their network will work compared to Live or PSN, because "nobody in their development teams used those systems"), with networking features in the OS still unfinished just weeks from the actual launch, forcing developers to "code it all in the dark and just hope that it worked."

In many ways, Nintendo is playing catch-up with Microsoft and Sony, who faced similar problems in relation to SD/HD gaming and networking issues in the early days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. What Nintendo doesn't have is the time to learn the harsh lessons that have made Live and PSN stable platforms.

With the development process being difficult, developers feeling that Nintendo undervalued the contribution of third-party developers (believing that first-party titles will be once again the savior of the platform), and the PS4/Xbox One being just around the corner, all of this combined to make the Wii U an undesirable platform for third party developers according to the secret developer. The weak sales figures for the Wii U, which made it difficult for developers to make a profit on game sales, only added to the problems.

The secret developers still predicts several ways for the Wii U to stay alive, largely off the backs of a must-have first-party game. But to the secret developer, Nintendo is "facing its most testing challenge in modern times."


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