There has been a lot of debate about the Wii hardware, how powerful the console is, what kind of technology it has, etc. It’s widely accepted now that the console isn’t that much more powerful than current generation systems, but it is nevertheless more powerful, as a recent Batman Arkham City Wii U comparison showed.
According to Nintendo, there’s a good reason why the console isn’t a huge leap in performance compared to the Xbox 360 and PS3: cost. Nintendo has to “devote significant costs to the GamePad controller”, as Satoru Iwata puts it in a meeting with investors, which means in order to sell the console at a reasonable price, it needs to keep other costs down. This means the rest of the hardware, CPU, GPU, RAM and so on, have to be very cost efficient. This translates to system specs that aren’t a true next-gen leap as many expected. Iwata said:
“…we have to devote significant costs to the Wii U GamePad, if we were to apply the same level of enhancement that other console manufacturers shoot for to the processing power component, the Wii U would become extremely high in price, and it would not be affordable”
Iwata added that developers are far from tapping into the full potential of the Wii U hardware, because they’ve only just begun making games for the platform. Iwata compares this to the current consoles, where developers have had many years to fine tune games and optimize games, in order to take full potential of the hardware. And he’s right — there’s a huge difference between the current PS3 and Xbox 360 games compared to those that came out 5 years ago. The Wii U no doubt faces the same situation, where games will look better and better.
It was recently revealed that all of Nintendo’s first party Wii U launch games will ship in 720p. It’s unknown what resolution third party titles will support, but we expect at least a few to push it up to 1080p, especially 2D side scrollers like Rayman Legends and Scribblenauts.