Hand Me Downs: The Porting Crisis of Wii U

With so many multi-platform games flooding Wii U’s launch window, Lewis asks whether we’re doomed to another generation of dodgy ports.

By Lewis Hampson. Posted 10/26/2012 14:00 8 Comments     ShareThis

Nintendo’s next foray into the console market they’ve dominated since 2006 will soon be upon us. The question of what games to purchase alongside your shiny, new Wii U will no doubt be foremost in your thoughts. Alongside the exclusive delights of New Super Mario Bros. U and ZombiU are ports of games that have either been released for quite sometime like Mass Effect 3 and games that are newly released like FIFA 13. Add to this all the “launch window” titles and you have yourself a rather nice selection to look forward to over the coming months. Or do you?

Since Wii U’s official announcement and subsequent development kits being sent out to third party developers, there has been a glut of rumour and speculation as to just what Wii U is capable of in terms of power when compared to the likes of PS3. Some reports say Wii U’s capabilities exceed that of what is currently available and some say the opposite. Truth be told it will be hard to know exactly where we stand until we are playing the damn thing for ourselves and seeing the HD beauty in all its glory.

One of Nintendo’s supposed angles when attracting developers to Wii U was the ease of porting games that are currently available, to their new console, and judging by the amount of ports we are seeing n the launch window, this tactic seems to be paying dividends. But do these ports truly show the power of Wii U? The short answer is… we don’t know!

Nintendo will no longer get the “lesser” port when it comes to multi-platform games, but surely we should expect a little more from a new console?

Of course, hearing Tuesday’s news that Assassins Creed III will be exactly the same as its PC and console brethren will either be a relief or slight cause for concern depending on your viewpoint. Personally, I would have thought that a game pushed so heavily by Ubisoft would have been at least technically better on Wii U (I’m talking draw distances, more people onscreen at once, etc.) than its competitors, particularly the console versions. I just don’t think it is acceptable we should be shouting from the rooftops that Wii U has a game that is on par with a seven year old console. Now this may be down to the fact that ACIII is an early addition to the Wii U’s library and I’m sure in time the ports from PS3 and 360, will indeed improve, but just how much time do Nintendo have?

With the PlayStation 4 and “Nextbox” set to be revealed at E3 2013, can Nintendo really afford to be lumbered with lazy third party ports of games that really should be taking advantage of brand new up-to-date hardware? Yes, I’m aware that Wii U’s GamePad controller will add some sort of novelty function to these games, but let’s not forget, these same titles have and will work just as well on the other consoles.

For instance, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 seems to be one of the early examples of how to get a port right. Whilst it may not differ too much in terms of graphics, the extra touches such as the Mario Bros costumes show a real effort on behalf of Namco to bring something different to the Wii U port. Just seeing those mushrooms super-size the Tekken cast brought a genuine smile to my face, and gave me a reason to consider buying this version over the others, even if I won’t be able to play my friends online like I would if I bought the PS3 version. It’s little details like this that can make all the difference, and at these early stages the signs seem to point towards inconsistencies in terms of effort put into ports for Wii U dependent upon the developer and development time they have had with the system.

A touch of Nintendo magic goes a long way…

Let’s take FIFA 13 as another example. The Wii U version will be missing many of the key components to the game including the first touch control system, complete dribbling, and also finer details of the player impact engine, all of which are present and accounted for in the other console versions. The team working on the title (which incidentally is not EA Vancouver) have put this down to the short development time they have had, which is unavoidable in some respects, but given the importance of such a title (at least in Europe), unforgivable in others. More worryingly, the Ultimate Team mode has been left out completely due to “Nintendo’s online being in its infancy”, which isn’t exactly the most effective way of declaring your faith in an untried online service.

To be honest, it’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions from these types of development shenanigans. Wii U will more than likely find it’s feet when it comes to ports, and will hopefully begin to show its true colours by outshining its rivals, giving the wider gaming public a real reason to own Wii U– because so far, there’s not much there for the core gamer that they can’t find much cheaper elsewhere. Time is also a big factor here. The time will inevitably come when Wii U simply can’t keep up with new, bleeding edge technologies that are already in production, and we’ll be thrown back to the days of Wii with the U’s only selling point being its lower price tag. We may not want to admit it, but this will completely defeat the purpose of the whole universal “for everyone” philosophy that Nintendo are trying to push with their new system.

The mental scars left behind by some simply awful Wii ports are also yet to heal, so maybe this is also clouding my judgement a little. But there is no way you cannot look to the past when the future looks eerily similar to the years gone by. Having superior ports over the next year will no doubt help Nintendo gain a major foothold in the core games market, but games that are “exactly the same” just doesn’t cut it in 2012, and its up to third party developers to really show us what they can do with Nintendo’s new console before Sony and Microsoft throw their hats into the virtual ring. I truly hope they can deliver, but until we see it for ourselves, it’s anyone’s guess.

What do you think? Should we be content to have games just as good as what is already out there, or do you want to see something different in terms of graphical and technical ability of the Wii U. Let us know below!

8 Responses to “Hand Me Downs: The Porting Crisis of Wii U”

  • 240 points
    Windy says...

    Well I’m personally passing on Wii- for a while until I see what Nintendo is going to release over the first year. I looked at a list of the first 50 software titles and was only interested in 3 titles for myself. Not good from my standpoint. So I will hold off and 3DS game

  • 72 points
    waiko says...

    I buy WiiU! Nintendo land and ZombiU looking GREAT! Next year is Monster hunter! That is super game!

  • 697 points
    Adam Sorice says...

    Excellent article Lewis, some very insightful points made. I think the reveal of Sony and Microsoft’s next consoles will definitely give us a better indication of what the next few years are going to be like; if they’re much more powerful than Wii U will it simply be leap frogged yet again? Will these new consoles have unique features like the Wii U’s Game Pad in an attempt to differentiate themselves, perhaps ending the multiplatform title as we currently see it.

  • 183 points
    Williaint says...

    I was under the impression that most ‘ports’, would include free DLC (which may end up saving you money)… also that both the “PS4” and “Nextbox” were going to use some ‘Integrated-reality’ stuff; or at least that the Xbox would :/

  • 225 points
    wombatguy880 says...

    I get that you can’t afford to turn a blind eye to Nintendo’s fault. After all the gamecube and n64 underperformed and the Wii wasn’t given every major 3rd party title despite its eventual success…. but why do we have to pretend it’s a bad thing that this WiiU console got ports. Not just any ports though but ports of titles that have never before graced Nintendo consoles ever from Batman Arkham series to Ninja Gaiden to Tekken (which has been a major franchise for several generations and all missed prior Nintendo platforms). I just don’t see why Nintendo press are the only people who have to be realistic when virtually everyone else is singing the praises of consoles that underperformed this generation and who haven’t even announced their next plan? Why is it that I have to suffer you people questioning the most assinine things? This is a console that launches with some of the biggest titles ever like Fifa, Madden, CoD, Assassins Creed 3, and many other titles that you might not consider “core”. It has at least 16 titles at launch that have the potential to be million sellers from Skylanders to Just Dance to ZombiU and CoD. It’s not a time to be negative just because it’d be too arrogant to admit that this is an amazing launch with lots of exclusives and many titles that have never graced a Nintendo platform. Let’s celebrate every once in a while. I’m not saying ignore past mistakes but keep them in context and realize this isn’t the past but this is a console that is meant to fix those issues.

  • 48 points
    RodSF4 says...

    regarding ports, although most of them will look either the same or slightly better, or will lack some features (i.e. Fifa 13, Madden), I believe Wii U will still have features that provide added experience to the gameplay. take for instance, Assassin’s Creed III, although it will be the same as the other versions previews suggests the Wii U experience will be better most especially for the sea battles. Fifa’s got the manager feature that is unlike the other consoles (one can be the manager while the other controls the players). of course we all know about true “split screen” experience with COD Black Ops 2. and just recently, Gearbox did say that the gamepad is truly a hardcore’s controller and that Aliens Colonial Marines is best experienced on the Wii U.

    my belief is that, for now we’ll have to settle for ports (with minimal gamepad use), but in a few months or so, we will see how developers can come up with creative use of the Wii U system (not just the gamepad).

  • 120 points
    NinSage says...

    Third parties just refuse to learn. Nintendo has been a major player in gaming ever since it saved the industry in the 80s. They will continue to be a major player in the future.

    However, Nintendo AND third parties would REALLY clean up if third parties weren’t such scaredy cats when it came to their “real” games on Nintendo platforms.

    It’s the same old tired cycle…
    A half-assed attempt, poor sales, pointing the finger at Nintendo… rinse, repeat. It’s ridiculous.

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