Nintendo Fans Assailed by Hatefacts
This week, amid news that the Wii U port of the upcoming Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was coming along ahead of schedule, Tekken producer, Katsuhiro Harada, dropped the truth bomb that the Wii U CPU is clocked at a lower frequency than its PS360 counterparts. While it has been clear for some months that the Wii U does not possess the power to distinguish itself significantly from the aging PS360 architecture, and while it is almost certain that developers early on in the piece are not fully harnessing the tricks and shortcuts available to the processor, it is nevertheless unthinkable that a supposed next generation CPU cannot even muster the raw power to best the output of seven year old technology.
When discussing the progress of the Wii U port of Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Harada stated: “I think maybe the game is coming along smoother than most people would think, as far as the look of the game. As far as graphical processing and such, it’s not much of an issue. But as far as the CPU goes, the clock is kinda low. I guess they’re trying to keep power consumption down so we have to come up with creative ways to get around that and that’s taking a little bit of time.” When asked specifically whether the Wii U was clocked lower than the PS3 and Xbox 360, Harada confirmed: “Maybe a little bit,” an entirely consistent answer, though it would appear that “them’s fightin’ words”!
Somewhat predictably, Harada’s words have led to Nintendo fans launching such quaint accusations as: Namco Bandai are just making a lazy port that does not take advantage of the Wii U CPU’s additional (imagined) features, and producers are not involved in the technical aspects of game production, so what would the Tekken producer know about something so fundamental as the system’s CPU frequency anyway? Then there are the laughable idiots who point to footage of the Platinum title Project P-100 as undeniable proof that the Wii U is capable of physics that would be impossible on the Ps3 and Xbox 360. When console warriors begin their cloud-gazing, one knows that the next console generation is not far off.
Harada went on to further clarify: “For example on PS3 it was kind of difficult at first, but if you made good use of the cores, you could split up the processing tasks and you could achieve very good effects. But this is kind of a different issue than that.” Indeed, this is a very different issue to that of the PS3, which had plenty of headroom to expand the CPU’s efficacy by offloading tasks to the chip’s multitude of slave processing cores. By contrast, the Wii U possesses three processing cores, which, by the looks of things, are all clocked lower than the Xbox 360’s three CPU cores. In all likelihood the chip is probably theoretically capable of performing at the same frequency as its Xbox 360 counterpart, yet has been underclocked to reduce the system’s power consumption footprint, and to improve component yield and console mortality. Ultimately, one would not be at all surprised if the Wii U’s CPU chip is eventually found to be more robust than that of the Xbox 360 when powering Wii U exclusive software, but the lack of raw power is sure to present difficulties in porting the PS360’s back-catalogue to the Wii U, making third party releases seem less appealing to publishers.
Square Enix’s Technology Director Is an Imbecile
Square Enix’s worldwide technology director, Julien Merceron, has this week single-handedly justified the company’s tendency to muzzle employees by dint of his ability to speak absolute rubbish. This generation has seen many developers retreat from the manufacture of console games, opting instead to test the waters of iOS and browser development – according to Merceron Sony and Microsoft are to blame for this development because of the length of the current console generation, a contention made without reference to logic or common sense.
When questioned on the topic, Merceron stated: “I would suggest that maybe we don’t want long generations. We have Sony and Microsoft talking about this generation 7, 8, 9 or even 10 years and it’s the biggest mistake they’ve ever made. This generation has been way too long, and I say this because you have a lot of developers that work on a new platform, and perhaps will not succeed, so they will wait for the next generation, and will jump on that platform. You could not do that with this generation though. So these developers went elsewhere to see if the grass was greener. They found web browsers, they found iOS, they found other things and a lot of them won’t come back to the hardware platforms. So you could look at it that thanks to Microsoft and Sony and the length of the generation, it helped the emergence of other platforms and helped them get strong before the next hardware comes out.”
What Merceron is essentially saying is that he believes that there were developers who did not meet with success during the current generation, and so they were waiting on the sidelines for the next console generation to begin, whereupon games would cost exponentially more for them to produce – because that makes perfect sense(?!). In reality this console generation has driven many developers to the wall with high development costs, and has led many others to implore Sony and Microsoft to prolong the current console generation so as to generate more of a return on their technological expenditure. Indeed, the only people one sees agitating for a hardware refresh are the representatives of the industry’s several megapublishers, because they know that another bump in development costs will further weaken the hand of independent development, entrenching the positions of Activision, EA, Ubisoft, and, yes, Square Enix as the content gatekeepers of the console world. It is, however, particularly galling that Square Enix should call out Sony and Microsoft for a long console-cycle when they announced Final Fantasy Versus XIII before the PS3 had even launched, and yet look no closer to delivering on it than they did back then. Square Enix could stand to learn to use the hardware they have now before they start clamouring for access to updated specs – because processing muscle is no panacea for what is rotten in that company.
Iwata on the Failings of the 3DS’ Design
Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, has this week admitted that 3D visuals are not the magic bullet that Nintendo thought they would be, noting that consumer excitement for the effect seems to be wearing a little thin: “I think when we launched the 3DS there was a kind of 3D boom, which is perhaps slightly on the wane again, but there are plenty of people out there that create 3D video and I think that some of those who create and distribute 3D video would be very interested in the 3DS XL. But as human beings are this kind of surprise effect wears off quickly, and just have this 3D stereoscopic effect isn’t going to keep people excited.
Nonetheless, Iwata still defends the inclusion of 3DS for the console, stating: I think it’s an important element, it makes graphics more impactful, it proves a sense of immersion that 2D doesn’t have, so I would say generally that 3D is better than 2D.” What this very simplistic argument fails to take into account is that it is not the mere question of whether 3D is better than 2D, but rather the question of whether 3D is better than 2D when it is displayed at half the resolution that is important – given that one can only stomach playing one out of a total of six owned 3DS titles with the 3D switched on, the inclination is to wager not.