This week at the Game Developers Conference, Epic Games took their usual opportunity to show off the latest developments in their whiz-bang Unreal graphics technology. In addition to the shooty/demonic demos in futuristic/fantasy settings, one of the most touted features of the engine was that it can scale from next-gen consoles like the PlayStation 4 all the way to mobile devices and even web browsers. Which raises the question: If the Unreal Engine 4 is so scalable, can it run on Nintendo's still-new Wii U?
The Wii U uses hardware that's more or less as powerful as the current Xbox 360 or PS3. It's certainly still more powerful than your average mobile device. Epic has been unclear about the Wii U's support for UE4 in the past, with Epic co-founder Mark Rein telling Videogamer that Epic doesn't intend to bring the engine to Wii U, but that "if a customer decides they want to port an Unreal Engine 4 game to Wii U, they could."
I figured I'd ask straight-out, so during the Q&A with Rein, I did. "Will UE4 run on the Wii U?"
"Hahaha no." Rein said, with expert comedic timing. The room erupted with laughter. As the laughs died down, Rein continued: "I mean, sorry, it's not really a correct answer. We're not… we have Unreal Engine 3 for the Wii U. Right? And Unreal Engine 3 is powering all kinds of amazing games, still lots of games are being made with Unreal Engine 3. We announced today about a new Unreal Engine 3 license. Unreal Engine 3 doesn't disappear because of Unreal Engine 4. But our goal for Unreal Engine 4 console-wise is next-gen consoles. That's really what our energies are focused on. If you want to make a Wii U game, we have Unreal Engine 3, and it's powering some of the best games on the Wii U already.
"Nothing controversial, guys," he jokingly chided.
So, it sounds like for all intents and purposes, the Wii U won't be getting the Unreal Engine 4, and therefore won't get games made using the engine. Coupled with the news from earlier this week that the Wii U won't run EA's new Frostbite 3 engine (which runs Battlefield 4 as well as the next Dragon Age and Mass Effect games), it's looking like Nintendo's console is going to have an increasingly difficult time keeping up with the competition.
Update 5/1/2013: Speaking the next day with Engadget, Rein characterized his comments as a "stupid gaffe" and reiterated the notion that while Epic won't officially support UE4 on Wii U, "if someone wants to take Unreal Engine 4 and ship a game on Wii U, they can! If they wanna ship an Unreal Engine 4 game on Xbox 360, they could make it happen."