Wii U Specs: Radeon 6770 and 2GB Sounds Great, But Is It Real?

Wii U Has Guts, Or So One Alleged Developer Claims

It’s a question the internet has been jerking off to for about a year: what kind of horsepower will Nintendo’s latest console, the Wii U, bring to the table? There’s always a lot of talk about “Next generation;” a lot of hopes will be fulfilled and others will be dashed. Ever since Nintendo showed off its hotly debated Japanese Garden graphics demo at E3 2011, fans of all consoles have argued bitterly about just what’s under the hood. But the ensuing year has not been kind.

At E3 2011, some developers claimed that Wii U was about 50% more powerful than PS3 and Xbox 360. Not a giant leap, but hardly a crushing defeat. Then, in December, another developer claimed that Wii U was “as powerful as Xbox 360,” citing specs that are, at first glance, awfully similar to Xbox 360. Then, as if things weren’t ambiguous enough, an article at popular site Games Industry Dot Biz claimed in April 2012 that Wii U is actually less powerful than either PS3 or Xbox 360. So now here we are, at the precipice of E3, with fans of all three companies armed with competing information indicating the box is More powerful, Just as powerful and Less powerful, depending on whom you believe.

What.The.Fuck.

So now another developer–wait, alleged developer–has emerged claiming to have detailed specs on the final Wii U that put it at a significant advantage over PS3 and 360. Thing is–I think he’s blowing hot air for a few reasons, and I’ll tell you why after the break.

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at what this guy is claiming, as reported by NowGamer:

– Wii U supports DirectX 11 and is already running Unreal Engine 4
– Wii U will support two touch-screen controllers
– The console has 2GB of RAM, 560MB dedicated to the OS
– There are currently multiple versions of the console with developers
– Graphics are powered by the Radeon HD 6770 chipset
– Wii U will come with pre-installed software
– Crytek, EA and Valve are all working on Wii U
– Valve are working on a digital distribution platform and Portal ports
– Wii U will support achievements
– Wii U’s UI will be customisable
– The new button has some link to the Wii Vitality Sensor
– The trigger buttons won’t be analogue

Above are the rumored specs as reported by the alleged developer. I’ve removed the bits about price, launch date and game lineup because they’re not material to this discussion, but you can see them at the NowGamer source link above if you really care.

I see a few problems here that make me question these claims. I’ll address these in order of importance to my addled brain, not the list. Sorry.

The Implausible

First, 560MB of RAM dedicated to the OS is remarkably inefficient for a games console. Maybe if it has some insane features that run constantly, but even then I’m not convinced. The latest data I’ve found points to PS3’s OS running at about 50MB memory footprint, while 360’s is around 32MB. I just cannot see Wii U requiring 11-17x the OS resources of these consoles. What would be the reason? I’m calling bullshit.

Did Nintendo redesign the Wii U controller?

Wii U changes aren't exactly unprecedented

DirectX 11: Sure, it’s possible, but I think it’s unlikely because Nintendo would have to license it from Microsoft–their nearest competitor. That said, I believe they’d be wise to do so–but it’s more likely Wii U will simply use OpenGL. Such a move wouldn’t be without precedent, of course. Sega famously licensed DirectX for its cult-celebrity console, Dreamcast. And while it’s fun to note that the Wii U shares another similarity to Dreamcast, with its screen-in-the-controller design, that’s hardly a compelling reason to think this’ll happen. DirectX licensing means indefinite cost overhead for Wii U, and let’s face it: Nintendo doesn’t even traditionally license obvious things like codecs for DVD playback. But still, there is an argument that DVD playback doesn’t affect games design; DirectX certainly would. We’re going to have to wait for official word from Nintendo before we really know. But again–I’m calling bullshit.
GPU: It’s interesting the developer claims Wii U will have a Radeon 6770, compared to the previously rumored 4770(ish). It’s not outside the realm of possibility, but I do think it’s a little unlikely for, again, cost reasons. Still, some developers claim that Nintendo IS listening to their input, so we may well be surprised. They may have decided that the long-term possibilities of investing in the hardware now could save them money–and face–in the long haul. I suspect they’d be correct, given that GPU technology both ages and drops in price quickly. I’m not quite ready to call BS on this one.
“New button” has link to vitality sensor: Ummm, how? I could see it if maybe the bottom of the controller had metallic pads like you see on exercise equipment for measuring heart rate, but otherwise I just don’t see it.
The Plausible
2GB RAM: I don’t see this as at all unlikely, actually. Today’s baseline on PC’s is around 4GB, though of course that’s DDR3. Although the developer doesn’t mention a specific type of RAM, my money is on GDDR5, since that’s what the GPU, if it’s really a Radeon 6770, normally runs on. This piece of the puzzle is downright reasonable.
Multiple versions of Wii U with developers: The console is in development and in flux; I don’t doubt this for a moment.
Wii U Achievements: This one seems not just likely, but “well, duh,” given that Nintendo’s recently rolled out “Accomplishments” for 3DS. I’m still surprised it never occurred to them to offer “Coins” ranging from bronze to gold in keeping with the Super Mario legacy of Nintendo.
Legend of Zelda on Wii U: DirectX 11?
Wii U’s UI will be customizable: Well, that’s vague. One could argue that Wii’s UI is customizable, given that you can drag and drop channels at-will. I’ll say plausible, just because it’s so vague it could mean almost anything.
Triggers not analog: It’ll be a shame if that’s not the case, but who knows. Plausible, given that the Wii Remote has a digital “button” for a trigger, though.
Wii U will include preinstalled software: Look, another vague statement. This one is interesting though, because it implies something else: included storage. What type? How much? Who knows–the developer didn’t specify. But including a little storage would be a good idea, and preinstalling a game or some apps on the system would keep software distribution costs for the core system low, at least.
Crytek, EA and Valve working on Wii U: Rumors began swirling months ago that Valve was working on its own console. Crytek and EA have both been public about their support for Wii U. EA has Origin. Valve has Steam. Both would like to extend their reach (because, you know, they’re businesses, after all) and sell more product to gamers. Nintendo needs to enable more online, downloadable content for their audience. Rumors as far back as a year ago pegged these services as headed to Wii U, and it’s an incredibly smart fit. By building native client support for these services into the box, Nintendo foregoes the cost of developing a competing network, yet gains the benefit of both companies’ infrastructure and years of experience. Hell, Valve practically pioneered the field. So this is plausible, big time.
Wii U will support two touchscreen controllers: This was in question last year–a lot. Developers and fans were both asking for it, and it’s a reasonable request. If the increase in rumored hardware specs are accurate, there’s no reason to think this can’t happen. And it’d be a smart move that would sell additional WiiPads at retail. Plausible? Hell–likely.
So, in a highly cliched nutshell, although this rumor has its fair share of plausible items, it also has some that verge on crazy and would be borderline out of character for Nintendo. Still, they’re not stupid, and they can see that the market is changing rapidly. There are enough holes in this story that I can’t bring myself to buy it wholesale, though, and until it’s confirmed by Nintendo, I don’t think you should either.
Disagree? Tell me how full of crap I am in the comments. Do, please, be specific as to why, though :).

3 Comments

  1. JasonGW 05/24/2012
  2. lumpy182 05/23/2012
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