Why Nintendo Wii U's Slower Processor Doesn't Matter

Nintendo Wii U's comparatively slower processor doesn't matter as much as you've been lead to think.

by on 30th Nov, 2012


That the Wii U has a "slower processor" than its much older counterparts—the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3—is an issue that's been made a fuss of over the past few days. It's one that we even reported on earlier today.

The Wii U's IBM PowerPC processor was discovered to run at a "relatively slow" 1.24ghz per core, on a total of 3 cores. The number might give cause for alarm as it's lower—in numerical terms, at least—than the 3.2ghz cores of the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The discovery was undoubtedly less than exciting for anyone hoping that the Nintendo console would carry a beefier CPU than its older counterparts at Sony and Microsoft.

The developers of Metro: Last Light also shared their disappointment with the console's processing power. One of the game's lead developers, Oles Shishkovstov, was quoted as saying that Metro: Last Light's CPU-intensiveness made the Wii U an unsuitable platform for the game.

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 producer Katsuhiro Harada echoed the Metro developer's statement, admitting that the team at to run some "creative solutions" to deal with the low CPU clock (Source: DigitalSpy).

From all of that, it might sound like the Wii U is ill-equipped to handle current-generation, much less next-generation games geared towards medium- and high-end PCs. Assuming you buy into the idea that the raw speeds of the Wii U's processor are all that matters, things begin to look pretty bleak.

Thankfully, these fears are unfounded, and it's a little shortsighted to put that much weight on the CPU's speeds alone. The Wii U's processors may run at a slower clockspeed, but the architecture they carry is more streamlined and capable of handling code more efficiently than its predecessors. In other words, it's a bit like comparing the current generation of Intel's i3/i5/i7 processors with their older line of Pentiums, which boasted high clockspeeds and little else. A similar comparison can be drawn with modern petrol engines and older gas guzzlers.

Having lower clockspeeds is not without its many shortcomings, as it force developers to spend more time optimizing their code. This makes the Wii U a real challenge to work with, hence the complaints from developers.

But as both Naughty Dog and 343 Industries have shown, you don't need powerful hardware to get games to look as good and run as well as Halo 4 and Uncharted 3. Getting games to look that good on the Wii U may be a hurdle for developers, but it isn't insurmountable.

With that said, you can expect the next generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft to run circles around the Wii U without too much trouble because they aren't quite as concerned about keeping the costs down compared to Nintendo—but for all of Nintendo's concern, that's neither here nor there.

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