Nintendo’s forthcoming Wii U console has received the teardown treatment from an unlikely source – Nintendo itself. The manufacturer also revealed some of the console’s design secrets.
It’s a rare move from Nintendo, a typically secretive company that likes to focus on innovative external features that have a direct impact on gameplay rather than the internal technical specifications of its consoles.
Yet here in the latest edition of Iwata Asks – a regular interview feature hosted by Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata – the Nintendo chief joins the Wii U engineering team in cracking open the Wii U and talking tech.
The interview shows the Wii U to be a highly efficient and surprisingly stripped-back piece of engineering. As pointed out by Eurogamer, the CPU (which is believed to be triple-core) may be even less advanced than initially expected.
Comments made by the design team about the new architecture being backwardly compatible with the Wii – “they adjusted the new parts added to Wii U so they could be used for Wii as well” – suggest that the Wii U CPU could simply be an evolved multi-core version of the Wii CPU rather than a completely new configuration.
This leads us to arguably the biggest reveal of the interview. The Wii U uses an MCM – a multi chip module.
This MCM means that the processor and graphics card are bunched together into a single housing. This has a number of benefits, both to Nintendo’s bottom line and to the quality of the final product. Not only is it cheaper to produce, it also means that data exchange between the two is much faster and power consumption is lower. It also means that a single cooling solution can be employed for the two chips.
All of this goes some way to explaining how the console itself (which isn’t much bigger than the original Wii) can be so small compared to the similarly powered Xbox 360 and PS3.
Despite packing everything in to such a small package, the Wii U team makes a point of highlighting how sturdy and well built the console is. Numerous “ageing tests” have been carried out to ensure that the Wii U doesn’t experience similar widespread breakdowns to the Xbox 360 and (to a lesser extent) the PS3.
So, the Wii U is looking to be a lean, mean gaming machine with a slightly runty processor and a meaty graphics card working in close cooperation. It should amount to a nicely balanced machine that won’t need replacing throughout its likely five or six year lifespan.
Next up: the Wii U’s unique tablet controller gets the Nintendo teardown treatment. We can’t wait to see what secrets it holds.
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