The Wii U is a great little system, but it's configuration puts Nintendo's platform at odds with how developers make games these days. Multi-platform titles aim for a minimum shared spec and then do optimization from there. (That's assuming optimization even happens.) That minimum shared spec currently encompasses the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One; most major developers will make games that can run on all three platforms, regardless of the fact that one of them can readily outperform the other two. The Wii U sits outside of this spec, so it's readily forgotten and ignored by developers and publishers.
Project CARS was one of the few games where that wasn't the case. Slightly Mad Studios originally promised support for the system. Unfortunately, it looks like it was never meant to be, with two statements on the cancellation of the Wii U title from Slightly Mad Studios and Bandai Namco.
"The official line is that we're awaiting an announcement from Nintendo on new hardware. As of now pCARS is simply too much for the Wii U," Bell told NintendoLife.
"Despite much perseverance on the Wii U version of Project CARS we will no longer be actively pursuing development on it as the quality does not meet our own high standards nor our intended vision for the title on this platform," a Bandai Namco representative told Polygon. "We eagerly look forward to any announcement of further hardware from Nintendo but right now Project CARS is simply too much for Wii U despite our very best efforts. Apologies to our Nintendo fans out there that have been waiting for further news on this but have no desire to release a product that isn't at the very least comparable with our highest-rated versions on other platforms. We optimistically look forward therefore to what the future may hold."
The game was originally planned for PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version were dropped in favor of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back in 2013. Despite that change, the Wii U version was still hanging on as a hopeful release. Essentially, Slightly Mad has been stringing fans along for 2 years at this point.
"The Wii U is more than capable of providing the core Project CARS experience," Slightly Mad creative director Andy Tudor told Red Bull in December of 2013. "Sure, some super-high-level graphical effects may not be possible but in comparison it also offers a unique interaction experience via the GamePad controller, with the second screen potentially becoming your track map overview, rear-view mirror, telemetry, or simply mimicking a real race car steering wheel whilst you use the gyroscope to drive."
By July of 2014, Project CARS had been picked up by Bandai Namco Games for publishing and the Wii U version of the game had been delayed until 2015. That's normal for Wii U-only owners who want to play multiplatform titles; Watch Dogs, Mass Effect 3, Assassin's Creed III, and Need for Speed: Most Wanted all saw significant delays on their journey to the Nintendo's system. Fans were apprehensive, but Slightly Mad still had the Wii U on their radar.
The PC/PS4/XB1 game was delayed from November 2014, to March 2015, to April 2015, before finally seeing release on May 8, 2015. For those on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, Project CARS was a great racing title. Jaz loved the game on PS4, giving it a 4.5 out of 5.
Then the other shoe dropped.
Project CARS on Wii U was stumbling before it even got to the gate. Slightly Mad studio head Ian Bell admitted on the official forums that the Wii U version was having issues.
"I'll come clean. At the moment we're running at about 23FPS on the WiiU," wrote Bell. "We're awaiting/hoping for more of a hardware announcement at E3. We could reach a fairly solid 30FPS, but it might take a hell of a lot of work. On the other hand, about halfway through us finishing, Nintendo might announce a new console. Our work might just be the best thing that ever hit that new console in the driving sim genre. So we're playing a waiting game at the moment and yes, economics do come in to it."
At this point, Bell insisted that the Wii U version of the Project CARS was always a "maybe". The question is, did Slightly Mad really think that the Wii U version was going to work, or did the developer mislead players? When the Xbox 360 and PlayStation versions were dropped, a number of fans figured the writing was on the wall for the Wii U version, but the studio emphatically said everything was fine. What happened?
As it stands, the dreams of multiplatform support on a Nintendo system continue to be relegated to indie titles. Third-party support has been a problem on Nintendo platforms, usually due to the fact that company tends to make fairly unique systems. While the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 share similar architecture, the Wii U is much weaker and it's likely that the upcoming NX will continue Nintendo's unique path forward. As it stands, if you're a gaming enthusiast, you have to own the Wii U with another platform to truly experience much of the industry's output. It's something faithful Nintendo fans have just had to get used to and I doubt it's going to change anytime soon.