Nintendo just licensed the Unity engine for both internal and external development. If this sounds like boring game industry inside baseball, well, normally it would be.
Except for the fact that your favorite mobile game was probably built on Unity, and your favorite indie PC game was likely built on Unity. Kickstarter games like Wasteland 2 are being built in Unity. In fact, pretty much anybody can use the Unity engine, and over a million developers are. And according to the company that develops it, putting out a Wii U version literally as simple as tweaking the control scheme and clicking the recompile button.
In other words, Nintendo just dropped a major bomb and in one stroke of the pen suddenly made the Wii U a possible goal for indie game developers. And that’s very, very important. A lot about the Wii U, and what Nintendo is up to, just came into focus.
Essentially, Nintendo is trying to bring PC gaming to the living room, and that makes a lot clear. The GamePad is goofy as a controller… but if you were adapting a keyboard/mouse game, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. Instead of trying to fit a PC game’s control scheme around a controller, you use the touchscreen for actions. For games that glory in menus and complexity, that’s going to have some real appeal.
Secondly, there are a lot of Nintendo friendly games built in Unity already, such as gravity-tweaking platformer Rochard. Unity is a pretty powerful game engine not least because engine modifications and other assets can be bought in a “store”, so developers not only have a game to sell, but code to sell. Essentially, the more people use it, the better and more varied Unity becomes.
Does this sell me entirely on the Wii U? No. Everything that convinced me the Wii was going to be a huge hit is telling me the Wii U will struggle. I still think the GamePad is a ridiculous mistake and I’m not convinced Nintendo will have the software to fight off other next-gen consoles. But we’re starting to get a sense of what they’re up to and if they play it right, I’ll happily admit I was wrong.