Wii U specs and performance matter, and Nintendo knows this

There has been a heated debate back and forth regarding the Wii U’s performance. Is it more powerful than current gen consoles? How powerful? Nintendo never gets into those kinds of discussions, opting instead to point out the unique features of the Wii U. But in today’s gaming world, pretty graphics and high performance sells. To a point. Which begs the questions: 1) does it matter how powerful the Wii U is, and 2) how powerful is it? The short answers to those questions are, 1) Yes, it does matter how powerful the Wii U is, and 2) It’s powerful enough.

Wii U closeupWhile Nintendo will never tout the performance of its consoles, it’s clear that the company is taking HD graphics seriously this time around. Back in 2006 with the Wii, Nintendo bet that HD wasn’t a big deal. And they were right. But that was six years ago. Today, HD is mainstream. Despite Nintendo’s main focus on the GamePad controller, they know that the Wii U not only has to be able to push 1080p resolution, but deliver decent image quality as well. It simply has to do this if it’s going to appeal to a mainstream audience, because today, mainstream has gone HD. In fact, they did several years ago. And it appears that Nintendo has in fact delivered a powerful console: the current (rumored) Wii U specs include a 3GHz tri-core CPU, 1.5 GB of RAM, and a speedy GPU from AMD. This makes the Wii U about 2X more powerful than the Xbox 360, meaning there’s plenty of performance to drive HD graphics to satisfy today’s gamers and casual fans. And that’s important for Nintendo — back in 2006, HDTV’s were just taking off, but now, the vast majority of television sets are HDTVs.

Another major reason for Nintendo to create a console with modern specs is third party support. Because of its specs and HD capabilities, third party publishers are now bringing some of their major franchises to a Nintendo console because for the first time, it’s technically feasible. Games like Assassin’s Creed 3, Batman Arkham City and Mass Effect 3 are all coming to the Wii U. And some of them come with improved visuals over their Xbox 360 and PS3 counterparts. Not to mention full tablet controller support.

For a console not to offer HD resolution today would be the same as if a console in year 2000 couldn’t do 3D visualsWhile us Nintendo fans tend to favor innovation over prettier graphics — and that’s how it should be — it’s important to recognize that graphics and visual advances in video games do matter. If they didn’t matter at all, we’d still be playing black and white 8-bit games on tiny screens. For a console not to offer HD resolution today would be the same as if a console in year 2000 couldn’t do 3D visuals, or a console in 1995 didn’t offer colors and was only in black and white. But it’s easy to get lost in the war of graphics and specs, and Nintendo knows this. They’ve made the Wii U just powerful enough to display decent graphics, but not powerful enough where it competes solely on performance. That’s not where the Wii U’s strengths lie. The strength of the Wii U is in its innovation, mainly, its controller.

Nintendo didn’t compete on graphics last time because they didn’t have to: they had a much more innovative product. And they don’t have to compete on graphics this time either — the Wii U offers a new approach to gaming that other console makers have already tried to copy. But that doesn’t mean the company is stuck in 2006. They have to keep up with the times as everyone else. The Wii U is powerful just enough to support full HD graphics and satisfy third parties. After that, it’s all about the unique features of the console: the Wii U GamePad.