Gamebro engine adapted to the Nintendo Wii - what are the implications of this?

Game websites have been shitting themselves over this for the past week - here’s a link. Apparently the “Gamebro” engine has been adapted for the Nintendo Wii and this is a Very Big Deal - mainly because it’s what was used for the big Elder Scrolls Oblivion game that everyone loves. But the article goes on to explain that this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll see that game on the Wii, and then they list a bunch of other completely different games that have been made with the engine.

Now, my understanding of game engines was that the engine is basically the running, working game, and you can basically clothe it in different visuals to make different games - for example, you might make one engine that’s Halo when you clothe it in Sci-Fi and guns, but then is Oblivion when you clothe it in medieval visuals and have the character fling spells instead of grenades (I’m aware that these two games are based on different engines, but I’m just trying to make an example).

So what IS this “Gamebro” engine, and what are the implications of it being available for Wii games?

I suspect you mean Gamebryo.

A game engine is a long way from a “running, working game”. Basically it’s a collection of software modules that handle the low-level grunt work of the game – getting graphics on the screen, maintaining an object database, calculating collision detection and other types of physical simulation, communicating over a network – that sort of thing. The game itself is built on top of the engine and usually requires lots of custom programming.

Licensing an engine is usually the most cost-effective way to develop a game. Building all the low-level code up from scratch is very time-consuming and expensive and unless you’re a big enough to have an internal tools group that creates one engine to be shared by many titles, it’s usually cheaper to use someone else’s engine.

It also makes it easier to port your game to other platforms. As long as the new version of the engine maintains the same programming interface you can ignore many of the hardware differences.

I suspect that part of the excitement about Gamebryo being available on the Wii is that it opens up the possibility of more games from other platforms being ported to the Wii. However, since the Wii is much less powerful than the 360 or the PS3 it probably won’t result in a substantial increase in ports. To get most 360 or PS3 native games working on the Wii you’re going to have to do so much extra engineering and art that the savings of having the same engine on both platforms won’t help much.

It WILL make it easier for third-party developers to develop for the Wii. Nintendo has always had trouble getting outside developers to build games for their platforms. The biggest hits on Nintendo systems have historically been made by Nintendo itself. The existence of Gamebryo on the Wii will lower the bar a bit for third-party players.

Interesting news, but not revolutionary or earth-shaking … .

That’s only true for the last 3 home consoles (Nintendo 64, Gamecube, Wii). One of Nintendo’s bigger advantages over Sega back in the (8-16 bit) day was superior developer support, and it continues to be the reason they dominate the handheld market today.