How Nintendo made the Wii U a small efficient games console

Sep 21, 2019 zkwmegmu

first_imgNintendo has just released the latest “Iwata Asks” transcript where Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata holds a discussion about what is happening at the company and with its products. This time, the focus is on the Wii U hardware and some of the challenges faced when designing the new machine. Present at the session are four representatives from Nintendo’s hardware, software, and research divisions.What we learn from this discussion is the main objectives Nintendo set out to achieve with the Wii U hardware. They were:A console focused on HD content and outputVery low power useAs small a console as possibleBackwards compatibilityThe key to achieving those goals turned out to be something the processor industry is increasingly turning to: multi core processors that integrate a GPU.For the Wii and Gamecube before it, Nintendo used a separate CPU and GPU inside the machine, but for the Wii U that changed. Everything is integrated on to a single multi chip module (MCM), with parts provided by IBM, AMD, and Renesas.By taking this approach Nintendo only has a single heat source to deal with. That meant more efficient cooling and a smaller overall console. Even so, the Wii U understandably uses a larger heatsink and fan than the Wii due to 3x the heat production, but the multi core processor still runs cool enough that it doesn’t require a fan mounted directly on top of the heatsink.One efficient, cool running module ensures very low power use, but with multiple companies involved in manufacturing that module Nintendo had issues with handling bugs. More specifically, when an issue occurred who’s fault was it? Nintendo solved this by employing a “prove your innocence” method of testing and feedback where each company had to prove it wasn’t their fault. Apparently it worked very well as teams are more inclined to prove they did nothing wrong than check whether they did.It’s also interesting to note that many of the engineers working on the Wii U had a hand in developing the Wii. This turned out to be a major advantage when it came to ensuring backwards compatibility as things “just worked” without additional hardware being required to ensure Wii games ran as intended. That also suggests Nintendo won’t follow Sony in removing backwards compatibility in order to save on manufacturing costs in the future.Nintendo refers to the Wii U console as a “stagehand,” meaning it’s a box you can hide away and forget about. The focus is, after all, on the tablet controller for players, and it looks as though they have achieved that goal. Now we just need to get our hands on it to see just how good Nintendo’s first HD console is.More at Nintendolast_img

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