During the Game Developers Conference, Kotaku Editor Stephen Totilo shot a question at the co-founder of Epic Games, Mark Rein.
He asked him whether the new Unreal Engine 4, the new middleware solution likely to be the cornerstone of many next-gen titles, would run on the Wii U. The answer was a laugh, and a “No,” supplemented by the explanation that the Wii U had Unreal Engine 3 games already running on it, but if individual purchasers of UE4 wanted, they could certainly try on their own to get the engine running on Nintendo’s machine.
This was just one more in a line of announcements by various companies confirming that they wouldn’t be giving the same level of next-gen, 3
party support to the Wii U as they would to the upcoming Sony and Microsoft consoles. Electronic Arts has also confirmed that their latest iteration of the Frostbite Engine would not be supporting the Wii U, which means no new Mass Effect, Dragon Age or Battlefield titles for the machine. Nearly a year ago, Crytek, creators of the Crysis series and the CryEngine stated that while the Wii U could handle the CryEngine 3 to their satisfaction, they had no plans to support the system as it didn’t fit with their current direction. At this point there’s still no word from Japanese companies like Konami (creators of the new FOX Engine) or Square Enix (with the Luminous engine) about whether their technology would be appearing on the Wii U. Meanwhile, the hotly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V is confirmed for a release date of September 17
All this points to one thing, the latest Nintendo machine—as usual—is going to enjoy much less “mainstream” 3
party support and be played primarily for its list of exclusives, new Mario, Zelda and Metroid games. For people that want to play everything else, like a new GTA or Bungie’s upcoming shared world shooter Destiny… well, that’s apparently what the PS4 and next Xbox are for.
Unsurprisingly, this has garnered some strong responses across the internet, with prominent gaming forums such as NeoGAF going into expected mocks and meltdowns as console warriors either celebrate—or gnash teeth—over this news. And in the middle of these attempts to understand this turn in Nintendo’s fortunes has once again come arisen the argument that Nintendo’s machine was never meant to be owned by itself. There are those who argue that the “proper” perspective on a Nintendo machine it’s just their as a “Nintendo” machine, to satisfy your craving for playing at Mario or Link, and that your “normal” or “everyday” gaming needs are catered to by your “real” machine, a Sony or Microsoft machine.
If it’s come down to this, it means that Nintendo can’t be too happy about their current position in the console market. Sales of the console are tracking at new lows compared to past console launches (yes, even the GameCube), and new titles are being announced on a regular basis that fail to include the Wii U. With the casual audience not flocking to the Wii U the way they did to the Wii, this means Nintendo needs to rely on the hardcore to keep their numbers up. If the only hardcore that are coming to them are their staunch loyalists—who usually aren’t even interested in buying 3
party titles—then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the few remaining 3
party publishers see their games not being bought on the Wii U, they withdraw support.
It’s not a pretty picture for Nintendo if this bad luck continues. Some people are already suggesting that since people come to Nintendo for their exclusives, it might be in their best interests to follow SEGA’s footsteps and start producing software only. We’ll have to see how things go for Nintendo throughout the rest of the year, especially when Sony and Microsoft’s machines debut, but the next generation is looking more and more competitive. It’s going to be hard for many to justify buying a new machine only to play a small handful of games over its lifespan and letting it collect dust between those releases. Maybe Nintendo really should start pitching their consoles as the supplementary vitamin to a main diet of other console games.