You’d think that with the release of Nintendo’s upcoming console looming ever nearer most third party developers would know a thing or two about the system’s workings that we aren’t privy to. Apparently the reality isn’t so cut and dry. Obviously they know enough to program games that will run on the hardware, but Nintendo’s apparently shackled most outside studios with some pretty heavy chains. According to one source, every Wii U dev kit is numbered and sealed to keep close tabs, and removing the seal completely voids the warranty. There are also tight restrictions in terms of looking too closely at the hardware via dismantling, probably to prevent leaks or reverse-engineering attempts. No surprises there; they sure aren’t handing these things out like candy.
But that’s not all that developers have reportedly been left in the dark about. Apparently Nintendo wasn’t playing around when they said that a lot of developers don’t really find out certain things until the public does. In order to prevent untimely information leakage, they tend to save the most sensitive revisions for in-house studios and developers with closer or more established ties with Nintendo. That means that smaller studios are out of luck when it comes to taking full advantage of the hardware. They’ll have to wait until things get unveiled just like we will. Seems a bit elitist, but there’s a legitimate business interest behind the secrecy, so I can let it pass.
The dev kits show some specs information when they boot up, but no sneak peek at the OS! They might know a thing or two about the kinds of features that’ll be included, but no major details. That means no real info about the user interface or appearance. It may not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but in my opinion the best uses of the Wii pointer for menu navigation were pretty closely based on the framework of the home menu (complete with the hand pointer that was equally responsive, menu panes laid out in a similar fashion, etc.), so it might be hard for third parties to take advantage of that kind of familiarity when implementing interface options for their own software.
Naturally the lid will come off after E3, but if these reports are true then oh boyo do I feel bad for those indie developers who want to get on board but have to hesitate because of this kind of industry pressure.