One of the biggest talking points as we head into this next generation has been graphical power. Even more than in previous generations, comparisons of the power between the newly released Wii U and the upcoming Orbis and Durango have been constant, and never cease to incite fights. The reason, of course, is clear. With the Wii, it was very obvious that Nintendo wasn't trying to compete graphically, and the only real point of contention was whether graphics mattered; purely opinion. Now, however, Nintendo's taken a step into the HD realm, and the argument is no longer whether graphics matter, but if the Wii U is truly powerful enough to 'beat' the competition.
In my opinion, this debate is pointless and flawed from the beginning.
It's true that Nintendo stayed out of HD in the last generation because they thought it wasn't worth it, that they could keep making their unique games with cartoony, low-resolution graphics (for the most part; there are still some visual gems on the console) while the PS3 and 360 duked it out over graphical presentation. Nintendo played the game their own way, and in different gamers' minds it either paid off or didn't. However, one of the biggest mistakes we are making as we transition into this next generation is that Nintendo made the Wii U to compete with Sony and Microsoft on a power level. Looking at the software Nintendo's been putting out, I don't think that's the case in the slightest.
In short, this is my stance: Nintendo didn't go HD to outdo the other consoles; it went HD because it was a missing function that was holding back the developers.
HD televisions were becoming more and more popular, and it's hard to find a family who doesn't own one now. Regardless of whether the graphics are the best in the world, it's the jump from SD to HD, that inability to have a game scaled to the fancy TV you bought, that really hurts. It also prevented a lot of third party developers from bringing their games over; it costs so much money to make an HD game, that to then take all that work, and scale it down so the Wii could run it...it just wasn't an appealing option. Even if the Wii didn't look as good as the other consoles, at least having HD would have made it more appealing all around.
It also held back the ambition of a number of Nintendo games. For example, I love Xenoblade Chronicles. It really is a beautiful game. However, that's only because of the art direction; when viewed from far away, in the wide open spaces, it's incredible. Once you close in on a character model, however, the lack of detail is very noticeable. The reasons for this are twofold. One, the Wii simply doesn't have the ability to go into high definition. Two, to spruce up those character models and get really detailed, the game would have had to start loading much more often, interfering with the gameplay. The lack of graphical power was making Monolith choose between graphics and gameplay; now, especially with the GPU Nintendo customized for the Wii U, Monolith doesn't have to choose--as is clearly evidenced in their new trailer.
You can say the same for Skyward Sword. Though the art direction was great, there was definitely an inability on the console's part to use the team's fantastic artistic vision to its full effect. We've seen what the game looks like scaled up to 1080p through a Dolphin, and it's vastly better than what we got on the Wii--and, I would argue, more true to the developers' vision. When Nintendo showed off Pikmin 3, they weren't just happy about the higher resolution; they made a bigger deal out of the fact that they could now individually animate each Pikmin to better realize the world and the creatures that inhabit it.
I don't think Nintendo ever once hoped that they could make the Wii U a graphical powerhouse that would blow the Durango and Orbis out of the water. That's not the game that they play. They like to come up with tools and to toys to play with so that their flagship franchises can continue to grow, and HD was sorely needed if they were going to make the next phase of their big series' worthwhile. Not only that, they would never fix their third party woes without having a console that could at least play the same resolution as competitors. After all, both the 360 and PS3 received good sales on many of the same games, even though the PS3 usually had a noticeable edge in graphics. Clearly there were a lot of factors besides the quality of the HD that mattered; but not having HD was a death sentence.
So please, Nintendo fans, stop insisting that the Wii U is going to be comparable to the PS4 in terms of raw power. It's not going to be. And that's just fine, because that's not what it's supposed to do. HD is just another toy for the developers to play with, and when combined with the creativity and love that Nintendo developers already have, it's going to make a lot of unique experiences--and be powerful enough to have Call of Duty and other multi-platforms just fine, along with those unique features.
Each console seems to be focusing on entirely different things. The Orbis is going full-on power, the Durango is going multimedia, and the Wii U is apparently trying to replace every other device in your house ever. Let's stop pretending that each company thinks graphics are the key to winning the next generation, and just take these consoles for the vastly different experiences they are.