It’s appropriate that Texas-based Retro Studios inherited the Donkey Kong Country franchise from Rare Inc. Like Rare was in the mid-‘90s, Retro Studios has become the western face of the intensely eastern Nintendo, a group of developers responsible for some of the best and most technologically impressive games to grace the Gamecube, Wii, and Nintendo 3DS over the past decade. While rumors continue to swirl about what Retro’s first game for the Wii U might be, a new one hints that Retro’s first creation for Wii U won’t be a game at all, but a proprietary engine for Nintendo to build HD games on.
GenGame reported on Tuesday that a source within Retro says that Nintendo has tasked the company with building multiple engines for Wii U to aid both first and third party developers in making games for the unusual tablet controller console. This makes sense in light of Nintendo’s past comments about developing HD games in house. “I think that we will have to rely on outside companies for graphics and other elements that require massive resources,” Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma said earlier this year.
The exact wording used by the source was that the engines were for Nintendo and “other developers,” meaning that Nintendo’s taking a more aggressive approach to fostering third-party support on the Wii U than with past machines.
Retro’s work could prove pivotal for the Wii U’s future as well. The studio’s efforts have gone a long way towards helping convince Epic Games to get Unreal Engine 4 running on Wii U. A number of the ports populating the Wii U’s launch line up are Unreal Engine 3-based (Mass Effect 3, Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition), but Epic’s hinted in the past that it didn’t think Unreal Engine 4 would support Wii U. “I don’t think it’s our intention to bring Unreal Engine 4 to Wii U, but Unreal Engine 4 is going to be supremely scalable,” said Epic’s Mark Rein in July, “We’ll run on mobile phones and on a wide variety of things, so if a customer decides they want to port an Unreal Engine 4 game to Wii U, they could. But Unreal Engine 3 is a really good fit for that platform.”
Retro’s technological pedigree is impeccable, as evidenced by the still impressive Metroid Prime on Gamecube. If the company can build effective tools for developers that make the Wii U’s capabilities shine, Nintendo should have an easier time getting games to market.