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Fanboys believe it. Haters provide unreasonable ridicule. Many are simply curious. Some, just want to understand, to 'know'. So, where's the truth, 'proof', even logic? I'll attempt to convey some of it in this blog.To begin understanding how hardware enables games and how current console hardware stacks up against modern hardware certain things are required to be understood.Performance increases in hardware come from advances in chip architecture as well as increasing transistor density. A prime example is Nvidia's 400 and 500 series. Even though their transistor density(40nm fab) is identical the advances in h/w architecture give the 500 series ~25% increased performance. A suitable comparison to this relationship would be how graphics on consoles have improved due to advances in game engines even though the hardware hasn't changed.Game performance is also heavily linked to the API it runs on. Recently Valve made headlines about how Source games run better in Linux due to the Open GL 4.0 API. Current gen consoles run on the DirectX 9 API. Yet, DirectX 11 has been around since 09. It would be amusing if the Wii U didn't take advantage of DX11. Why? The performance. As you can see WoW received significant performance gains(~30%) in DX11 vs DX9 even though the engine was not designed from the ground up for DX11. Engines that are designed for DX11 receive even more benefit.Keeping the above information in mind we can now begin to understand the information available concerning the performance of the Wii U. Games on the Wii U will render in 720p@60fps or 1080p@30fps. Current console titles almost always render 720p@30fps in DX9. One now needs to understand how games scale in performance between 720p and 1080p.. As you can see there's about a 70% decrease in performance when rendering at 1080p. If we apply this to the 360, games which normally run 720p@30fps would run 1080p@9fps. If those same games are ported to the Wii U and running 1080p@30fps it means, that in terms of fps, the Wii U is 3.3x as powerful as the 360. 3x! How could you say that isn't next-gen? By forgetting the first two paragraphs of this blog :p.To really understand the Wii Us performance we have to ask "What actually is more 'powerful' than current consoles." By what measure have devs been rating the Wii U? Lets start with a familiar game, Mass Effect 3. The 360 runs ME3 with no AA, and who knows what texture quality, 720p@30fps. The Ivy Bridge APUs found in notebooks runs ME 720p@30fps with 2x AA. Notebooks with only APUs can play games at higher settings than a 360. It's more 'powerful' than a 360. Yet, how much of that is true processing capability? The answer may surprise you! The Xbox 360s GPU is rated for 250Gflops, but, the Intel HD 4000 GPU in Ivy Bridge APUs is rated for 200Gflops. A device with 20% less processing power has more performance.Keep in mind, all of this math shouldn't be viewed as 1:1 performance. It's adhoc, it can't be entirely accurate, but, it's far more accurate than probably anything else you've heard to date. There are other aspects to h/w which will increase performance, but, to keep things short (yes this will be keeping it short) lets be lazy and add a 12.8% performance boost to encompass the rest and an additional 1% for giggles. So, lets find out what it is to be 3x more powerful than the 360 with today's architectures and a fully featured DX11 engine. For games that run on DX9(at higher settings) one would need 3(200)Gflops to be 3x more powerful. If running those same games in an engine built for DX11 you'd need 3(200*.30)Glfops to be 3x more powerful. All together, to be 3x more powerful as a modern day console you'd need 3[200(.30+.128+.01)]. So, a system with 3x the gaming performance would have 337.2Gflops. You know what has 300Gflops? A GT 630. It's an OEM GPU, meant for manufacturers like Dell/HP. It's bottom of the barrel graphics performance which Dell sells for $90. Given statements made by Satoru Iwata things start making sense. If you go so far as to contemplate that "the company targets to make a profit on every Wii U console it sells" the price point of an OEM card almost seems like their only option.Lets talk shortly about the 720/ps4 and their possible specs. There's almost no info for them. All that can be said is that Epic Games made that UE4 demo as a statement to MS/Sony. "UE4 does this now, in real-time, make sure your platform can handle this". It takes a GTX 680 to run the demo in editor. That's 3090Gflops! Don't panic. Consider for a moment that the GTX 680 also runs The Samaritan demo. When first demo'd it took three GTX 580s to run! That's 4740Glfops(SLI scaling notwithstanding). Engine optimization does wonders, especially if given time and a single piece of h/w to optimize for, like in consoles.So, let's be conservative and say consoles will only need 33% of that power to run the UE4 demo. That's 927Gflops. Huh, funny thing here. I pull'd 33% from one 680 doing what three 580s did but now that I think about it 900Gflops goes hand in hand with rumors that the 720/ps4 will be 7-9xs as powerful as the 360. Anyways, another OEM card, the Gt 645, does 894 Gflops. By contrast the GTX 660, a $200 card, does 2400Gflops! You know all that money Nintendo put into that touchscreen? MS/Sony will be spending theirs on a GPU.Now, reflecting upon everything that's been written here how far-fetched does it seem that Ultrabooks will outpace the Wii U in a few years? Nvidia says mobile will match the 360 in 2014. Is the stuff I've been saying starting to make sense? One more dose of perspective might help here:
It is about time for Nintendo to actually bring a product on that sales floor that can actually pour out some power. I heard about the specs about 14-16months ago when the internal parts were announced from Nintendo. I just hope Nintendo actually does something with them...
In terms of the Wii itself and Nintendo's consoles- it is their next gen. Compare it to the current gen consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3 and it is only the same roughly, meaning that while it is a step forward it still only settles the table into a stalemate with other consoles- regardless of extra features it may add. We just have to hope it can compete with whatever comes next from Microsoft, Sony, Valve, Ouya, and others...
An excellent analysis. You sure did help me learn quite a few new things that I didn't understand or know about GPUs and hardware architecture. With that said, even though the Wii U can in theory be mathematized and guessed to be 3 times more powerful than current generation consoles, does that not mean that Microsoft and Sony will be taking even farther leaps with their own consoles?
Perhaps Nintendo will optimize the Wii U for Unreal Engine 4, but at this point we don't know, either. Again, excellent analysis.
Good job of sort of explaining something I know nothing about. It will be "Next Gen" Nintendo stopped caring about tech advancements and started with their innovative advancements. I just hope it doesn't get totally demolished by the next Xbox and PlayStation.
Won't be getting the Wii U, really wish Nintendo would have made something that brought me back to them