Nintendo’s Wii U is just about two months away from release, and we still don’t know very much about what it can do. Over the past year, some developers working on the tablet-controller console have claimed that it isn’t even as powerful as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Nintendo has countered those claims by saying it doesn’t care about horsepower, just quality games. “We just do not care what kind of ‘more beef’ console Microsoft and Sony might produce in 2013,” said Nintendo president Satoru Iwata in July, “Our focus how we can make our new console different than [others].”
The closer we get to the Wii U’s conspicuous debut though, the more developers are starting to speak more candidly about its capabilities. One thing we know for sure: In its current state, the Wii U can only support two tablet controllers. Any more will be impossible.
At first, Nintendo wanted four tablet controllers. It’s had four-controller support for all its home consoles since 1996’s Nintendo 64. The current Wii U simply can’t handle it though.
“The funny thing about Wii U is, as each week went on, we discovered more cool things we could do with it,” Blitz Games’ design director John Nash told Eurogamer in a new interview. Blitz creates mostly licensed games targeted at young kids, like movie tie-in Puss in Boots. “It’s very much a fast-moving space with shifting sands. Because we were fairly early on with this, the specification for the machines wasn’t nailed down. In fact, Nintendo were still chasing the idea of having four of the tablets running concurrently. Now they’ve stepped away from that and said you can have up to two depending on what you’re doing in the game. That’s given us a base level specification which has changed out thinking and some of our design.”
Nintendo announced during E3 2012 that Wii U would support two tablet controllers. To date, no Wii U game shown to the public supports more than a single tablet controller, including Nintendo’s first-party tent pole games for the system like New Super Mario Bros. U and NintendoLand.
Nash details a number of interesting specifications in the Wii U. The Wii U has markedly more RAM than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as well as a robust Graphics Processing Unit. Its CPU meanwhile is said to be slower than that of Sony and Microsoft’s current consoles, something that might cripple developers looking to port titles from those other machines.