Over the holidays we're republishing some choice features from the last 12 months. A mix of talking points, interviews, opinion pieces and more from NL staff and contributors, you'll find our usual blend of thoughtfulness, expertise, frivolity, retro nostalgia, and — of course — enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Happy holidays!
Nintendo recently revealed its schedule for shuttering its digital storefronts for both the 3DS family of systems and the Wii U. From March 2023 you'll be unable to make new purchases of digital software of any kind on the 3DS and Wii U eShops, which includes digital versions of physical releases, digital-only download games and all forms of DLC. You will be able to redownload purchases made prior to that date (much as you can still download previously-purchased original Wii titles on that console) "for the foreseeable future", but obviously that functionality will eventually be removed.
'Such is the way of things', you might think — 'it was never going to last forever'. And while most of us can sit and rationalise that, yes, of course digital services have a finite lifespan, and no, obviously we didn't expect to be able to redownload our copy of Crimson Shroud when we're in our 90s, seeing the digital store closures come so comparatively swiftly after these eShops first appeared is a bitter pill to swallow if you're at all concerned about video game preservation.
Nintendo looks at the first 2 years as the indicator of when to start packing it in with a console
The fact is, though, that Nintendo — and all companies operating similar stores selling digital wares — plan controlled closures of this kind many years ahead.
"Nintendo knows it has to support a product for a minimum of 10 years or they risk some class action," a former Nintendo of America employee told us. The source, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that Nintendo has been eyeing this shutdown for a long time now, and that 10-year cut-off comes in November 2022, a decade on from the Wii U's launch. "Internally, NCL [Nintendo Co. Ltd, the main Japanese company of which NOA is a subsidiary] has been waiting for that day since 2014 based on sales... Nintendo looks at the first 2 years as the indicator of when to start packing it in with a console."
A failure on Nintendo's part to demonstrate succinctly the benefits and value of the GamePad controller's asymmetrical gameplay — or to successfully differentiate the console from its predecessor in the eyes of the wider public who had been a key part of Wii's popularity — resulted in lacklustre sales from the beginning. By 2014 it was clear that the concept simply hadn't struck a chord with a mainstream audience and, according to our source, the company was quick to pivot and change tack internally.
"While NX was being worked on, you saw a test with amiibo and a bunch of weird apps that interacted with those on Wii U. All just busy work to fill the sales void until NX [Switch's code name] would arrive. Same thing with the mini consoles… panic products aimed at filling the NX gap for Christmas."
While NX was being worked on, you saw a test with amiibo and a bunch of weird apps that interacted with those on Wii U. All just busy work to fill the sales void... Same thing with the mini consoles
The relative commercial failure of the Wii U (13.56 million units isn't nothing, but from its console lineup only the Virtual Boy sold fewer units) caused headaches across the company and supply issues cropped up earlier in the console's lifecycle, notably when it came to repair parts.
"We started talking Wii U repair and replacement numbers about a year prior to the Switch launch," our source details. "NOA was nearly out of optical drives for the repair/replace program… and I mean like 2016 you could eyeball how many were left. NCL had a good supply, so they moved that inventory to NOA so we could handle repairs at least until the Switch launched. So the EOL [End-Of-Life] program at least for the console began before NX launch."
This shutdown plan came only a couple of years after a 'Wii U upgrade program' was rolled out internally, which encouraged Wii owners to upgrade to the new console with a discount while NOA recycled the older console.
"In 2013, we were still dealing with Wii repairs and Nintendo ate like 7-10 bucks per repair. There was an employee meeting the Spring of 2014 and they were looking for ideas from within for either savings or sales ideas... That was about the time I started to hear internal jokes about 'what do we upgrade them to when these Wii U’s get sent in for repair'."
Asked about the full End-of-Life process and how long the ability to redownload previous purchases may stay in place for 3DS and Wii U, our source is less than optimistic about that timescale compared to Nintendo's official line of "the foreseeable future"; they predict a total shutdown of services within just a couple of years. "They will give notice in 2023 that the server will be shut down after a time." After this time, the suggestion is that online play, redownloads of purchased content, and everything else will disappear entirely. "People will 100% lose their games if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they have their games on."
People will 100% lose their games if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they have their games on
The Wii hasn't been Nintendo's current console for a decade, so it would be less surprising were Nintendo to shut down servers for that system's redownloads soon. Wii U, however, was Nintendo's primary home platform until Switch's launch nearly five years ago in March 2017, so the idea that access to redownload your digital library and play online could be removed as early as 2023/24 is sobering indeed.
We reached out to Nintendo for comment regarding our source's claims and the company's post-March 2023 plans for the networks. We were directed to the company's Wii U & Nintendo 3DS eShop Discontinuation support page, which — as we mentioned previously — states that online play, software updates, and the ability to redownload previously purchased content will remain after late March 2023 "for the foreseeable future":
For the foreseeable future, it will still be possible to redownload games and DLC, receive software updates and enjoy online play on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
With specific reference to online play, the page also says that "There are no plans to make any further changes at this time".
"The discussions I heard were to retire the NNID bolt-on system and use the Nintendo Account system only," says our former NOA source. In fact, it seems that the Nintendo Network ID system which was scrapped for Switch in favour of the new Nintendo Account system (but "intentionally bolted on to the current system so they could at least merge wallets/payments and get people into the Switch ecosystem earlier") may be another cause for the company's alacrity in sunsetting the last generation console's storefronts and networks.
"They may change their mind about how and if they will allow your purchased titles to be accessed, but that system was such a mess to tie to Nintendo Accounts they may choose a service solution with some kind of “make the customer happy” credit for Switch."
When you look at the comparatively long life of the Wii Shop — which can still be accessed in 2022 to redownload purchased titles — we assumed this was simply down to the massive install base for the original Wii, which our source confirmed. "Wii Shop was a pretty contained store environment and yes, the install base is still huge."
Of course, those Wii purchases won't be available to redownload forever, and it's not unrealistic to imagine Nintendo rolling up the full closure of all its older networks — Wii, Wii U and 3DS — with one fell swoop. The company knows as well as anyone how that news will go down with hardcore fans; from a PR perspective, better to get it all out of the way at once than present multiple targets for negative press and general gamer discontent.
Ah, who cares, you may cry — who's playing 3DS or Wii U online now anyway? Well, perhaps more people than you think. Erstwhile Nintendo Life video producer Jon Cartwright investigated online activity for both systems — Wii U in December 2020, 3DS in January 2021 — and found a surprisingly active player base for a number of online games. Granted, these tests were conducted while much of the world was staying home more than they otherwise might for pandemic-related reasons, but there is evidently still player demand, however small, for these services staying active as long as possible.
it's not unrealistic to imagine Nintendo rolling up the full closure of all its older networks — Wii, Wii U and 3DS — with one fell swoop. The company knows as well as anyone how that news will go down with hardcore fans
Ultimately, anyone who stops and considers the financial realities of maintaining servers and devoting resources to networks built for past consoles — services that are actively used only by a tiny fraction of players — will see the writing on the wall here. It's little comfort for enthusiasts like us, or preservationists, or young players in 5 or 10 years' time that may want to explore these systems' libraries only to find them inaccessible.
Many of the bigger 3DS and Wii U eShop games got physical releases, but not all — not by a long shot. The price of a secondhand 3DS has shot up in recent years, with prices on auction sites reaching eye-watering levels, which is somewhat surprising for a system with lifetime sales of nearly 76 million units. If you want a nice clean one, though, you can expect to pay hundreds. Conversely, there are fewer than 14 million Wii Us in the wild, and a much smaller number with copies of Affordable Space Adventures on them. Subtract from that figure the hard drive corruptions, failures and data loss those systems will inevitably experience in the future and... well, you can see why people are so passionate about this topic.
Our advice? We definitely recommend backing up your hard drives if you've got them, and getting your personal 3DS/Wii U affairs in order while you can. It's easy to get up in arms and melodramatic — and we're keen to encourage level heads and calm conversation — but the clock is absolutely ticking.
Release VC already for the Switch...
The more I hear, the less I trust buying digital from anyone besides Steam or GOG.
Man that's scary to read. To think they were planning this so far ahead just makes me go crazy. I still really hope that Nintendo can hear us like Sony did, but knowing how stubborn Nintendo is, I highly doubt it
Guess I'm keeping that external HDD I bought that my wife sarcastically said is proof I bought way too many games in the first place. Lol
Nintendo now expects every new console to be an instant success within 2 years? I don't want to believe that Nintendo is that fickle.
I’m not expecting anything for 3DS, much less Wii U, but with Switch at least I have to ask why Nintendo doesn’t try to make its digital purchases from their eShops available to play on future systems. From what I’ve read it sounds like Sony and Microsoft are providing this with their platforms.
@Crono1973 The digital future has issues, but overall, it's not a problem of digital distribution as a concept, it's a problem of bad services, Nintendo is the issue here, for delivering us such a terrible service.
Don't buy anything from Nintendo, I will keep buying digital games only on Steam and GOG too, and avoiding other stores unless there's no other option for the game I want.
@Fighting_Game_Loser Sony won't be keeping their (current legacy) services running forever either. Let's not get the narrative twisted.
@Aezetz It is time for you to give up on this dream.
PC is the only place where digital purchases are reliable, not only there are DRM free stores, but we won't have a PC 2, making the stores for PC 1 become obsolete and shut down someday.
What we have to hope is that from now on, consoles are standardized, backward compatibility goes forever, and that allows us to always download our games.
Prices for 3DS, Wii U games and hardware are going to skyrocket.
@Fighting_Game_Loser Personally the biggest issue I had with the Sony case was that they gave like a month before they closed the store. I'm glad they changed what they said, PSP aside, but it's not been even a year since that, in any moment they could announce the definitive closure of the store.
But, they're definitely holding on much longer than Nintendo. I knew that the eShop closures were inevitable, but not THIS early. I expected the next Nintendo console would be out before they phase out the 3DS and Wii U, because the Wii Shop Channel didn't close that long ago.
Great reporting, here!
@iLikeUrAttitude Wii U hasn't budged yet, but used 3DS XL's are already on offer for over $200 USD on eBay.
Wait. If you can still redownload titles, that means they all still have to sit there on the server anyway.
So... why can't new customers buy them still? Surely the only reason to shut down a digital storefront is that you can't / don't want to afford to keep running the servers, right?
Read the whole thing, but I always expected the servers to go down eventually and repairs to stop eventually. Sucks a bit yeah, but I'll just play games I enjoy till I can't anymore. Knowing that I myself am stupid enough to buy 300 euros of digital stuff on Nintendo systems.
@ModdedInkling because the simple reason that those sony digital stores were bigger than those of wii u and 3ds (the nintendo switch e-shop is that it can be compared more or less with the digital sales that the ps3 digital store had, you can imagine the crap sales that had e-shop of 3ds and wii u, edit: if the digital sales of wii u and 3ds are much lower than digital sales that nintendo has had with nintendo switch)
The Virtual Console isn't coming back. The reason why is because other than all the big name Nintendo and third party titles and the ocassional cult classic, everything else on the original Wii Virtual Console didn't sell well. Not to mention that apparently the Wii U (no surprise there) and 3DS Virtual Cosnole sales were also poor
@Crono1973 Exactly. At least in the case of Steam and GOG, if a game you bought gets removed or their stores just shutdown, outright, you'll at least be able to back up and play your purchases whenever you want.
It's a mortifying read but not too shocking given how poorly the Wii U sold and how much of its noteworthy content have gotten Switch ports or sequels.
But I don't think Nintendo had to drag the 3DS eShop with the Wii U eShop.
@Subtle24 Normal closure procedure. Each traffic on a server costs energy/money.
@ModdedInkling Don't think it's meant to be anti-consumer. Probably more to do with future-proofing their online infrastructure and pushing on with the Nintendo Account system for future hardware/software, rather than keeping compatibility with the old. Cost is a factor but (I think) it's more to do with just wanting to do something new and investing the money elsewhere.
@moodycat legally no, your not ever buying a game when you buy it digitally your buying a license for that software that license has limited lifespan.
@Williamfuchs420 Not correct. The license has no lifespan. However, the download window after purchase has one.
@Subtle24 costs a bit to maintain financial transactions with digital storefronts. The banking system isn’t a standstill and is constantly updating if they just stopped updating the storefront and left it up pretty quickly your cards would stop working because of some update on the banking front. Hell if the banks stopped the constant updates these cards would become easier and easier to hack and steal from.
Because Sony actually faced significant pushback instead of just memes referencing Thanos, what happened last year with Mario 3D All Stars and Mario 35 had to have informed Nintendo’s decision
I highly question that it would really be much of a drain on Nintendo’s resources to keep these stores open. Sony backtracked on shutting down the Vita and PS3 stores, thank god. Nintendo could do the same very easily if they chose to. I’m very much looking forward to NSO being closed down in a decade or so and people losing access to all of the games available on it. Only this time you won’t be able to play them at all after it closes. At least you’ll be able to play Wii u games that are downloaded after the eshop closes.
This is extremely disappointing... makes me realize that Nintendo is a corporate company that like every other business, will always put money and profits first over their fans. It is a sad reality.
You're shocked that a corporation is out to make money?
Digital purchases are now tied to your Nintendo Account rather than to your specific hardware, and Nintendo seems intent on continuing Nintendo Accounts and other services (presumably NSO) with future platforms (i.e. the Switch's successor):
It seems very likely that Switch purchases to carry over to future hardware. Sadly, NDS/Wii/3DS/Wii U are excluded from this plan, hence the imminent 3DS/Wii U eShop purchase shutdowns.
Is it still possible to buy these games on Nintendo's website? I tried but the link that tries to take me there brings me to their new website/store layout
@Digitamamon64 If you search for a specific game you SHOULD be able to find it. I just bought Legend of Dark Witch and Steamworld Dig 2 for 3DS on the site.
Other games, though, aren't coming up at all. Seems to be hit or miss. I'm putting it down to being a new layout, as even the deals page for Switch is clearly missing at least 500 games when compared to the Switch shop.
I feel stupid for how much I bought on Wii U and 3DS. Both of my consoles have problems now, that Nintendo won’t repair. I bought entirely too much on my Switch, but its hard not to. I’m hoping they support and repair the console for a long, long time. I hope the Switch’s successor is backwards compatible. Its just a fact of life, just like having a car, nothing lasts forever, parts break or wear down. Life is ever moving and every game or item bought is an investment that can be lost.
Great article, NL at its finest. Thoughtful analysis from @dartmonkey. Fascinating to get an inside source on this kind of thing, and it's interesting to hear about the tug of war between NOA and NCL.
It's a shame Nintendo wrote off the Wii U so quickly. Consoles with botched launches have been turned around before (Sony have it down to a fine art). I mean, we got the Switch out of it, so I shouldn't complain. But it's still bittersweet.
As well as digital games, the "Wii Shop Discontinuation" FAQ page also points out that system transferring will also not be possible in the future.
"In the future we will close all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including the ability to redownload WiiWare and Virtual Console games, as well as the Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system. We will announce specific details as that time approaches."
Considering the 3DS is also tied to using Nintendo's servers when doing a system transfer, it's going to suck if you want to transfer from a used 3DS to a newer one in the future.
@moodycat Legally it's not, because you agreed to the Terms of Service, that long wall of text that you didn't read and clicked "I agree" anyway.
Also, when you buy physical, technically you still don't own the game, only a license to use it, because if you buy a Mickey Mouse T-shirt, you can't make your own Mickey cartoons, if you buy a Star Wars DVD, you can't make your own Star Wars movies, if you buy a Mario game, not only you can't make your own Mario games, but that copy cannot be copied and shared unless it's just your own backup copies.
But with physical copies, companies can't take them away if they go bankrupt.
They should absolutely not be allowed to completely cut off updates and patches for games. There should at least be a way to download patches on a usb and copy them onto your system.
As for downloading digital games that were paid for, we always knew they were essentially a rental, but man, it's pretty rotten. I think they need to be careful here. If they show their hand and intent to cut off access to peoples games, there's a serious risk of damaging trust to the point where people will buy fewer games digitally. Unless they go all in with a Netflix style sub model after the switch.
@BloodNinja Not on Steam you won't but Steam has proven itself reliable. Steam games require you to be logged into Steam and offline mode is not a permanent mode.
Any promises made that your Steam game will not away if Steam shut down are false promises, Steam doesn't have that kind of power over games owned by other companies.
GOG is currently free of DRM so you're safe there....for now at least.
@Aezetz Will never happen. Online expansion replaced VC.
Same reason why N64 Mini won't be a thing either.
@Jeff2sayshi thanks for the reply, and a quick one at that! It does seem hit and miss for now. Wanted to double check for my panic last second buying lol
@Crono1973 On PC you have the option to remove DRM on most purchased games anyway.
@victordamazio Also, when you buy physical, technically you still don't own the game, only a license to use it
You own your copy of Chrono Trigger on the SNES just like you own your car. You can play it, sell it, loan it out and even destroy it. What you can't do is make illegal copies and sell them but that doesn't mean you don't own your copy, it just means that you are not the copyright holder.
if you buy a Mario game, not only you can't make your own Mario games
You can't make your own Mario games regardless of whether you bought any Mario game. It's because you don't own the IP. However, if you do buy Super Mario World on the SNES, you own that copy and can do what you want with it as pointed out above.
@Ventilator On PC you have the option to remove DRM on most purchased games anyway.
If breaking the DRM is fair play in this comparison then emulating Wii U and 3DS games would count. I am talking about staying legal.
@Crono1973 You should research the Goldberg Steam emulator, and Smart Steam Emu. I've been playing all my purchased steam games without needing the steam client for years, using those solutions. Totally legal, since I am using it to run games I bought. Even still, you can run Steam in offline mode forever without worrying about it, and you can backup your Steam games without needing emulators to run the Steam client. GOG just gives you the installer for each game, so you're set for as long as you maintain a good backup.
@Williamfuchs420 Legally it's not, because you agreed to the Terms of Service, that long wall of text that you didn't read and clicked "I agree" anyway.
The button you press to get the game should not say 'Buy' or 'Purchase', it should say 'Lease' or 'Rent'.
"owning" software will always be a physical affair. You never own digital content. This easily crosses into what software makers have been doing for years. Adobe, Microsoft, and others switched to the subscription model to make more money. You most likely can't get a disc nowadays. They're pulling a Thanos, they are "inevitable".
@BloodNinja I'll look into it.
@MegaMari0 Physical has no meaning anymore today either. Especially since the Switch.
A lot of physical games on the Switch come on the smallest cartridge and force you to download the majority of the game on your console. Not to mention that many games require a day 1 patch to function properly (including many of Nintendo's own games). Then not talking about digital DLC, etc.
So if the Switch store shuts down in the future and its games not carrying over with full backwards compatibility to their next console, you screwed either way owning physical or digital!
Microsoft so far is leading the way here in doing it properly with game preservation. On their Previous XBOX One they started with making many popular old XBOX and XBOX360 titles available.
The new XBOX Series X (which I have since launch) is fully backwards compatible with XBox One and I could straight up transfer all my games, including digital purchases (which included some xbox360 titles) to my new XBox Series X console. All with save data included!
Its interesting how MS seem to be only one interested in preserving games. The PS3 store will go at some point despite Sony backing down for now and its rather sad. I suppose at least the PS4 store is safe as its the same store as PS5 what i guess the PS6 will use as well.
@Jeronan So if the Switch store shuts down in the future
It will, there is no doubt about it.
its games not carrying over with full backwards compatibility to their next console
...and that store will shut down in the future too unless they change the way they handle their eshops. For example, Steam still works if you change your hardware or your OS.
@Crono1973 See what I added in my previous post:
"Microsoft so far is leading the way here in doing it properly with game preservation. On their Previous XBOX One they started with making many popular old XBOX and XBOX360 titles forward compatible with XBox One.
The new XBOX Series X (which I have since launch) is fully backwards compatible with XBox One and I could straight up transfer all my games, including digital purchases (which included some xbox360 titles) to my new XBox Series X console. All with save data included!"
@Jeronan Microsoft is showing the way, let's hope they stay the course. They did say that they were done with Xbox and 360 BC.
Edit: Sadly, Microsoft also showed the way to paid online play.
It's really ok to shutdown digital stores for older platforms. What's not ok is to lock you out of your purchases on the newer platforms.
Basically, retrocompatibility should be a given. Switch 2 is announced, fine, all your Switch games go with you to Switch 2. And keep stacking up a-la-steam as you change hardware.
So Nintendo thought about closing down the Wii U eShop in as early as 2014...when Iwata was still alive and president of the company.
Good to confirm that nothing different would have changed under different leadership. Hopefully the "Screw the current evil Nintendo leadership, good guy Iwata would have never done ____!" rhetoric can go away.
Just buy a flash cart or install custom firmware on your system at that point.
I don't buy any game digitally expecting to still be able to access it in twenty years time. There will always be some way to do so should I want to on the hardware of the day (or a PC).
@jrt87 Just buy a flash cart or install custom firmware on your system at that point.
You know it's funny, people who just want to play the legal way never want to venture in that direction but once they do.....
read the EULA...
Buying software is a fool's errand if you care at all about longevity/archiving.
Piracy is the only way for that stuff.
Actually that’s pretty standard across the industry. The first two years are key to a console’s long term health. Typically speaking console makers have a two year review to judge the console’s trajectory. If it’s on an upward momentum, they slow down support for their previous or alternate platforms and double down on the current one. If it’s on a downward trajectory, they start theorizing how they can get out from under it.
Sony had a post mortem conference for the PS3 and started early work on the PS4 in late 2008. Just two years into the PS3’s lifecycle. They knew it was going to flop financially speaking, since they could never recover the investment they made on the Cell processor with the PS3’s expected level of hardware and software sales.
However, the key difference between Sony and Nintendo’s post mortem conferences is that it sounds like Nintendo knew by their second year that the console would flop in terms of both finances and sales figures. It wouldn’t impact their next console since it would be like the Saturn; forgotten by history quickly. So they focused on the 3DS and started working overtime on the NX project to get it out as soon as possible.
At Sony, some of them had the same mindset. But Kaz Hirai was the hero of the PS3. Like everyone else he realized that financially speaking the PS3 was dead on arrival. But he felt strongly that Sony could catch up to Microsoft in terms of worldwide sales and set up a strong customer base for the eventual PS4, where they could recoup Sony’s losses from the Cell processor fiasco.
So whereas Nintendo focused on the 3DS and spent as little money as possible on the Wii U, Sony doubled down on the PS3 and basically said screw the financial costs of it, since they were never going to recover those anyway in its lifecycle. They spent an enormous amount of extra money supporting the PS3, building new improved development kits, building their first party studios into the legends they are today, and found new ways to entice customers to give the system a chance.
In the end they succeeded. The PS3 outsold the 360 slightly and set up a dedicated fan base for the PS4.
@dartmonkey I just wanted to say, regardless of the topic and contents of the article, this was really well written 😅. It told an engaging and well paced story from beginning to end and I was noticeably gripped by it.
Sorry that was a weird thing to say but I thought I'd provide the complement as after I finished reading, I felt like I do after I've ended up watching something all the way through to the end on TV even though I initially put the programme on for background noise during dinner 😅😅
I'd almost say that PS4/5 games will stop working at some point even if you have the disc. I'll bet the licensing servers will turn off eventually and all you'll have is a worthless disc/case.
@sword_9mm Why would disc based games need to get a license from a server?
Sony’s only had one botched launch they turned around. The PS3. They botched the Vita launch and gave up on it immediately.
Difference was that the Vita was just a side project compared to the PS3. They never recovered the investment money on the PS3 (I do believe it is still the most expensive console ever made from an R&D standpoint) but they needed the customer base for the PS4. So they doubled down instead of giving up on it.
Sony doesn’t require a license check for disc based software on PS4 or PS5.
I’ve installed PS5 games offline and played the launch versions before.
@victordamazio That's so very true, i play a bunch of PC games that released 30 years ago (Games by Apogee, big part of my childhood), but PC emulation like DosBox is allowed, whereas Nintendo will fight you tooth and nail for trying to play their 30-year-old games because they want to keep selling people "Super Mario bros." again on every device they release.
Nintendo do a lot of great things, awesome games and stuff, but they're such horribly conservative dinosaurs in many other areas, it's quite galling really...
I appreciate the complete explanation. Very interesting business approach. I guess I'm just concerned that success is getting to Nintendo's head. Do they now expect every one of their consoles to sell over 100 million units? The Switch 2 is inevitably going to sell less than the Switch 1. The article reads like the Wii U has been a financial burden even after the Switch launched. They should be discontinuing the free Wii U online play before discounting the eshop honestly. I'm sure that has been more of a waste.
Removed - spam
I doubt they expect every console to sell 100 million. But they do want the console to “succeed” both financially and in terms of market share. And that success depends on a lot of factors.
The Wii U wasn’t succeeding in either metric from the get go. It’s the only console Nintendo has ever lost money on. The PS3 flopped financially out the gate, but it had the potential to claw back some market share from the Xbox 360. The Dreamcast was initially very successful in terms of its sales figures. But the thing was a financial drain on a company that had no monetary assets at the time. The GameCube had slow sales throughout its life cycle, but it did keep up with the OG Xbox and it never lost Nintendo any money. Microsoft has more money than a deity, so they are excluded from these discussions for the most part.
Every situation is different. And the companies have to make some hard decisions.
I don't get why people are surprised thay Nintendo are shutting down the Wii U and 3DS eshop, when the former was a total flop while the latter saw a deep decline in sales after the Switch launched, with this very site calling the system dead in 2019.
Also don't get why people on the site are suddenly white knighting Sony when they've also acted ***** in the past, and continues to ignore smaller games while shutting down their Japanese studio. Spoiler alert: no company is your friend
@Ultimapunch if I am not mistaken, the NSO games are downloaded on your machine, thus so anybody can create a mod for the Switch to bypass subscription checks for installed games (and Nintendo will hunt them down like crazy).
Shutting down the eshop, online play and those features are one thing and fully expected. A redownload server should be up indefinitely. This is the sole reason i haven't and won't embrace digital anywhere near the extent of PC. I prefer digital for the convenience and ease, but why would I buy a game on a Nintendo console digitally if that game is available on PC and I will have none of the limitations?
Hahahaha what a BS article. "people will 100% lose their games if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they have their games on"... like this would be exclusive for the Wii U. Stop acting like you cared back when the console was active, because, fact is, you didn't. Move along.
How about: when the console is EOL and after some years have past since closing their eshop, the server and all its eshop contents become free (not open source) but they would post all of it on github and you could download and host your own. The money to be made has been made. Give it away.
@Edu23XWiiU Pretty much this. Nobody gave a crap about the WiiU. Same thing with FE Revelations.
Now out of nowhere. Everyone is suddenly mad about this stuff. We knew this would happen eventually. Such is the way of life
Can't wait for this terrible console to die for good. The biggest mistake in Nintendo's history. It will be a cool collectable item in the future though.
For a company who seems to know how to pivot when they are wrong, they seem to double down on the monstrosity that is their online services. Really no excuse for it in 2022.
@nitrolink maybe not an instant success but at least competitive in the market. The writing was comically on the wall for the Wii U.
@Crono1973 only in GOG you're actually buying game, the rest of the digital shops you're actually renting the game, have DRM and
need to be online to play.
CFW will keep old dusty systems viable
Physical copies stop being produced, prices skyrocket, the eShop shuts down, you can't buy or download, hard drives fail, the physical consoles wears down and can't be repaired. Shady licensing agreements restrict access.
Emulation is forever.
@Digitamamon64 they removed the wii u as a platform choice. That was a crappy move.
Plus the new site really sucks. The old one was so much easier to use. Faster too...
Excellent, through, level headed article.
As someone who still uses their 3DS, it’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow. I must admit, if this news was just for the the Wii U I’d probably be taking a platitudinous ‘such is the passage of time’ position. But it doesn’t seem that long ago that the 3DS was running in semi-parallel with the Switch (Samus Returns being one example), so for it now to be put out to pasture so soon is really disappointing.
I don’t download games super often for it, but there’s this a lot of stuff I haven’t got to yet, and it’s nice to feel I have the option. My Japanese 3DS in particular was a download machine.
It seems strange to think that it wasn’t that long ago that the Gameboy Pokémon games were made accessible and brought into the current Pokémon ecosystem for the first time, to much fanfare. Now they’ll be trapped in the past all over again.
Can you make backup copies of digital games from the 3DS and Wii U in case anything does happen to your original copies saved on the system? Is it as simple as copying the files from the SD card or hard drive to your computer? And can you just copy them back to the system they came from in the future and they’d play ok?
This will keep happening as long as they tie the stores to the console. In this regard, MS have done a great job because the Xbox Store isn't tied to a console in the same way. There's no Xbox 360 Store, Xbox One Store etc. It's just the Xbox Store, and they let you access it through any of the consoles or PC.
@GravyThief Even if you can, it won’t change the fact that you would need to log in to your account to verify your licenses in the event that you needed to reformat your hard drive, which can be necessary during a repair. If the servers are gone, that becomes impossible.
I played watch dogs on the Wii u not to long ago and there was still people to play with! I was really surprised!
@GravyThief there is a YouTube video that shows you how to do that for digital games on the Wii u.
Buy physical games, folks
@Crono1973 For example, Steam still works if you change your hardware or your OS.
That's an apples to oranges comparison. The architecture differences between generations of consoles is what's hurting the digital preservation. Had the consoles stayed with the same x86 on their cpu, then there would not be any necessity of emulation or recoding. Also, Steam only works if you have a compatible PC, regardless. If you are still on windows xp, you will have a bad time..
@Savage_Joe Are you saying that what Steam does isn't possible on consoles? People probably shouldn't be leasing/renting games on consoles then.
@dartmonkey Great article. I have been expecting it to be written for some years.
"Our advice? We definitely recommend backing up your hard drives if you've got them, and getting your personal 3DS/Wii U affairs in order while you can."
I personally would love a practical article about how best to backup digital games from these systems. For instance whether solid state drives might be best for WiiU harddrive backups? I was poorly advised when I sent my 3DS for repair at Nintendo AND LOST ALL MY DIGITAL GAME SAVES...
I've highly considered scooping up bunch of games on both systems... but i also have mine modified and can still play Nintendo games up to wiiu on my pc, up GameCube/wii on my phone, while i do purchase games on wiiu to legally put them on pc there's many that I don't and don't care if I "pirate" them...after a certain point art belongs to the consumers of that art.. if Nintendo can't say make a storefront like steam where regardless of machine I can play my game library, I'll happily pirate older games because at the end of the day games belong to the gamers...i buy plenty of modern games across 3 platforms,sometimes multiple copies for different systems...I'll never shed a tear for Nintendo as i play wind waker or metroid prime right of my tablet with a PlayStation controller... Give us something comparable Nintendo I'll gladly give you money
And you already know the one thing that will get people to stop complaining? Simply just give them the same option as before. They want options, not replacements. I will GUARANTEE you that if the Switch had Virtual Console, nobody will be having this discussion right now.
Yes and no. It depends on how much they are actually strained on costs, which I doubt they really are if they were able to survive multiple commercial failures.
Nintendo is a lot like Disney. They’re fiercely protective over their IP and throw lawsuits around when they feel like it’s the least bit threatened. Just like Disney.
That’s why their nickname is the “House of Mario” a play on Disney’s House of Mouse nickname. They’re a Japanese Disney for all intents and purposes when it comes to their IP. Understandable to a certain extent; like Disney Nintendo’s IPs are worth their weight in Gold.
But unlike Disney, who sort of reformed and makes efforts to make their classics available across their respective industries (except for LucasArts games, although they are starting to rerelease some of those classics), Nintendo does a piss poor job at it.
By comparison, Sega is another company with a rich IP lineup, and yes they do keep screwing the Master System and Saturn era, but when it comes to the Genesis they find ways to force those classics down your throat.
@Crono1973 it's possible, but harder for them, since they didn't have a steam-like system to begin with. Again, apples to oranges.
@Savage_Joe No, they can be compared since they both sell digital downloads of video games. What next, are you going to tell me that Nintendo doesn't compete with Sony and Microsoft because Nintendo has different hardware?
@Blister This, so much.
I need a hard drive before I go on my Wii U shopping spree and recommendations on what could get the job done would be appreciated.
I have a lot of microSD cards ready for my 3DS, though.
I’ll stick with Xbox. I can still buy some original Xbox games and all the way up to the current gen. Also game pass and their online and reward systems are great for me personally. I never touch my switch or PlayStation anymore. Too many Wii U ports that I already own. Now new updates to ports of a game I played 7 years ago?
@Crono1973 your words, not mine 🤷♂️
@korosanbo Subscription services are all the rage now, even my local carwash is offering a monthly subscription.
@Crono1973 what you're not getting is that xbox, sony and Nintendo can survive without going all digital, unlike steam, gog and epic. Their business depends that everyone buys digital, since modern pcs don't have physical media anymore. If either the mentioned above shuts down, it will be catastrophic for pc players, but for the console makers, it will be just a 30% drop in sales. But since you are clouded in your ideology by the look of your comments, I don't think my words, or anyone else's, will make any sense to you...
@Savage_Joe Steam helped kill the physical market on PC, it wasn't born of the lack of physical games. Do you even know what you are talking about?
Physical games are not a solution. I don‘t want to have a room / storage unit full of 40 years of collected plastic and electronic waste.
Wii U modding has become easier then ever in the last few months. Backup your games via Homebrew and you are safe.
@Savage_Joe Sony and Microsoft do most of their sales digitally nowadays. Some of their systems do not support physical media.
If Valve ever decides to shut down Steam and release Half Life 3 in the Epic game store instead, all your games and backups are garbage. You cannot play them without contacting Valve‘s servers.
The Wii U on the other hand can play your games as long as you still have your copy.
Makes sense really. Nintendo tried to keep WiiU afloat but it was rejected by consumers so no need to sink more money than necessary into as time marched on.
@Bobarino I agree that it is a crappy move. Why not keep it on the website for another year until the Wii U eShop closes?
I'd like to know how much it actually costs Nintendo to keep these services running. Because server hosting and storage is cheaper than ever. And also there wouldn't be as much load on these services as there was back when the wiiu and 3ds were new. So could scale it down a fair bit.
Anyhoo, I'll grab an emulator and download all the games I've bought and run it on pc from now on.
@VGFreak1225 I thought something like that would be the case, so it would only work when you’re able to redownload purchases from the eShop anyway. The article just mentions backing up your games casually likes it’s easy as pie. Thanks for responding.
@Bman2425 thanks I’ll take a look. Although as per the other guy’s response, it looks like it would only work if you’re able to sign in to your Nintendo account via the eShop on the console, which when they close everything down you wouldn’t be able to. And during that time you could just redownload your purchases from the eShop anyway so I’m not sure if there is any real benefit to backing up your Wii U and 3DS games, at least for my purpose of not losing them many years in the future. Thanks for your response, I’ll certainly take a look on YouTube.
I take stuff like this with a pinch of salt, Plans change in companies all the time, As for the first 2 years of launching a console that's always been a critical period until now that is, Obviously current economical circumstances have changed that with current gen shortages.
Every time something like this pops up I will say it again...this is exactly why physical copies of games are better.
@Piyo I’m a digital advocate as much as the next guy. Now, as I said before, the consoles will survive if a digital “shut down” ever happens. Sony has sold very little ps5 digital, and they can cut the losses easily for those sales lost. Obviously it would be a different story for Series S users, unless MS gives every SS user a disc attachment.
It’s true that xbox and ps digital sales are higher, but many people just want to play the games. So, if digital is a no go, most of digital purchasers will change back to going to stores or amazon to buy their games.
@Aezetz Zero chance of that
@GravyThief For what it's worth, the fact that the Wii U/3DS storefronts use the same account system as the Switch eShop means that they might not need the redownload servers to run the appropriate license check, but I don't believe that has ever been made clear by Nintendo. If they really are planning a short remaining lifespan for the servers but the license check remains online, then maybe you could argue that you could back up your games and keep them legally accessible indefinitely. Of course, this would only work until they shut down the current Switch eShop, then we might be back to the same problem if Nintendo doesn't take the appropriate steps to let us keep our purchases.
EDIT: Okay, just looked it up and it looks like purchases are tied to your console. Maybe Nintendo could offer some sort of migration system with a final firmware update to make the check work beyond the server lifespan, but I wouldn't bank on it.
@Ryu_Niiyama yep when I bought mine I knew it was already dead in 2015. I heard it had some great games so bought it. Wasn’t disappointed.
@liljmoore Entitled people, thinking the world owes them everything and for free. Good thing is, they know they're a minority, and that frustrates them even more hahahaha.
This type of decision on the part of nintendo, decreases consumer confidence. And maybe, I repeat, maybe, this hurts Nintendo more than the cost of maintaining the servers (since competitors keep the servers running much longer than Nintendo).
Trust is very important in an online business. Nintendo is not a pro-consumer company. It is a company that idolizes itself and encourages this behavior on social media. She needs to look less inward and more outward.
I say this from a business point of view, not as a gamer. This market is increasingly competitive.
Like I said, outside of the big well known franchises from Nintendo and stuff like Castlevania and Mega Man, the Virtual Console sales were low for everything else, and even lower on the Wii U and 3DS, which is why they discontinued it. Not saying I agree with them doing that to be clear
I wish this would be the wake up call that people need… to realize those digital games are temporary licenses to play games. If you buy a physical copy, it’s yours forever. But digital games? Yours until…. Well, that’s up to Nintendo in this case. Worse yet, they don’t even make physical games complete anymore, they always have some sort of update that you need. They are effectively killing the future of video games with all of this 🤦🏻♀️
The way they are shutting down 3DS leads me to believe the new system is coming next year. Moving on from Wii U sure but 3DS is suspicious.
After all the rumours running amok I think this is actually a smoking gun pointing to it because there is no way Nintendo would cut these off unless there was another plan.
I'll never understand why all previous gen platform Emulators and corresponding libraires aren't just officially sanctioned and/or hired by each console maker, then just charge a subscription fee and/or sell titles individually that carry forward with each progressive console release. Sure there's a lot of business & legal hurdles to tackle and sort out on the backend, but it's not impossible. Other mediums have transitioned to some variation of this model. Seems like a win-win for producers, consumers and game preservation. People will always still want and buy more new games despite having access to huge past libraries so there's little worry of cannibalizing your own market. Makes the most $en$e to me, but what do I know...
... Wun can only hope.
@Crono1973 steam isn’t reliable either. Games have been removed from the store and you can’t access them despite purchasing them.
@Kiyata I agree. It’s going to hurt companies in the long run. That’s why I’m buying physical copies whenever I can. As for the updates, I think if you download it and have enough memory on your system/memory card, you should be fine to continue playing it.
Great article, but why are you jinxing us? Yu zu know you started the Great Nerd War of 2022 in the comment section? Mama mia....
People hated the Wii U so much that they refuse to buy it but those people are the same people wanting a Wii HD. Umm y'all just killed your Wii HD and then when Nintendo closed down the Wii U eShop, they pretend to miss it like y'all weren't even there.
Nintendo can do whatever it wants, it's so stupidly easy to homebrew a 3ds( and wiiu), and get everything ever released on the eshop forever ..(free too) if they actually set up a store front like Steam for legacy content they can continue to make money for a long time... but it's Nintendo,
@wuntyme8 been saying that forever... Nintendo should just have a storefront like Steam put everything on there and let people play it on Nintendo systems or PC or whatever, but give us access to Nintendo's legacy, people would definitely pay... I'd for one don't wanna have to rebuy super mario bros 3 for every single system they re-release it on...buy it once play it forever .. because the alternative is I'll just get them for free on emulators if Nintendo doesn't have a reasonable system in place for older games... Switch online sucks... Playing botw on PC is leagues above playing it on switch
I understand server costs are a thing, but the amount of bad will cutting off the ability to redownload older software will generate will be massive. For myself, it would irrevocably alter my relationship with the company that would see them getting WAY less money from me than they used to, and I doubt I'm the only person who would feel this way.
@victordamazio you are clearly wrong you own a physical copy you get to play that copy for as long as the game works or the switch machine works
This article knows what a boot tastes like.
This would be a lot more "sobering" if coming without the typical tabloid trick of "unnamed sources" which I can see even NL still doesn't mind soiling its feet with. If someone risks - le gasp - getting fined for a broken NDA, is there even much incentive to encourage them to do so just to heat up the FOMO pan on the otherwise pretty obvious matter? It's all about entertainment anyway (unlike the areas where anonymity is actually warranted, like usurping regime counteractions), and we all know that the day redownload servers shut down for good will simply be the day nothing much will hold the console owners off from hacking the units and torrenting a friendly neighbourhood romset. That all said, the comments themselves don't quite compute - if Wii U has been facing earlier server plug pulls as compared to the significantly more successful Wii, then what about 3DS which is just two Wii Us below Wii lifetime numbers? And whose account system, dated or not, was comparatively functional enough to allow linking with Switch's even as far as eShop wallets went?
Oh well. Like I said, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. If you don't want to... I dunno, organize flash mobs to delete and redownload Wii U games en masse to sway Nintendo with higher activity numbers? Backlashes and downvotes, the fandom's preferred alternatives, don't pay for semi-dormant servers either, and as has already been discussed here before, the long-term effort of voting for someone who can lobby beneficial legislation changes (like, in this case, some 20-40 years of CAS-shotgunned digital store dedication instead of mere ten?) barely ever crosses fans' minds.
The still online Wii and DSi shops for redownloading of past purchases don't lend much credence to the suggestion that the Wii U and 3DS eShops will disappear quickly after next March.
This would never happen on Steam
@westman98 It may not have been Iwata-San's thoughts on the matter also so not cool saying unfounded flack about a dead person.
@johnedwin False, nowadays, many Switch games released in physical copies, still require a download to play them, meaning that if you don't have internet, or Nintendo shuts down their servers, you can't play that game.
Such a scenario seems unlikely, but that means your physical game is a fancy digital purchase regardless, you still don't really own your game and rely on companies keeping their services forever.
The Console Online Stores are a Mess and just brutally against Consumers.
Imagine Steam would wipe the Store with every new Window Version.
As we have come to an End with physical Copies, i see no Benefit in buying a Console.
When they first showed the GameCube I remember thinking, ‘how am I going to fit my n64 cartridge in that!?!’
Such a non story this, anyone still playing their really old games on the actual systems they were made for?
@dew12333 Nope, but I've been enjoying Ultra Moon at 3x resolution and 60fps instead of 30 on a device that would already be in my pocket that also happens to make phone calls!
@victordamazio Unless of course you have this magical thing called an "SD card" that can, ya know, store them forever?
@dew12333 have you never met a retro gamer?
"A failure on Nintendo's part to demonstrate succinctly the benefits and value of the GamePad controller's asymmetrical gameplay — or to successfully differentiate the console from its predecessor"
This is factually incorrect. The GamePad has always been adequately demonstrated regarding its capabilities, and has in fact been the father to not only the Switch, but the Steam Deck. Without the GamePad these devices simply wouldn't exist. It was a risk that paid off quite well.
As for differentiating from its predecessor... Only a moron with no knowledge of the internet, smart phones, or basic reading comprehension of a box would have confused the Wii U for an add on to the Wii. Demo units were everywhere as well, and clearly showed off not only the hardware, which was substantially different, but the graphics and control, which were substantially different. If the public couldn't understand this then how come there isn't discourse regarding Xbox Series X, S, One, One S, One S All Digital, and One X? Because that's stupid to suggest people who take the time to understand won't understand.
My parents called everything 'Nintendo' when I was growing up, or 'your Super Mario game', because they didn't want to understand what it was. That didn't hurt Nintendo back then, and it didn't hurt the Wii U. What killed the Wii U was one thing and one thing only; EA.
If EA hadn't thrown a hissy fit and pulled ALL of their support months before launch, the Wii U would have been successful. EA was leading the Wii U bandwagon after all, because they were partnered with Nintendo to bring them into the digital realm. Only problem was EA wanted full control and Nintendo intelligently said no. EA cried, pulled support, and the closer to launch we came, the more studios dropped out. Except Ubisoft. We went from extreme hype to developers actively mocking the console because of EA. Ports that were too far along to cancel were rushed and had resources removed from them. EA themselves sabotaged anything they published, and funny enough the ports that didn't get sabotaged reportedly faired better than their other versions.
If you really believe the Wii U's downfall was any other issue then I'm sorry but you've been believing a lie this entire time. It was solely EA, the largest developer in the industry at the time, pulling support. If you see the top dog leaving, the rest follow suit. It's literally just because of EA.
I’m so heartbroken. Just bought an extended life battery for my Wii U tablet and once I put it in I got a white solid horizontal line now running down the screen 😭
Such a good system and mine played mint all this time 😞
This is why you don't buy anything digital as you don't actually own it!
This is why I always try to "finalize" consoles when I can see they are reaching the end of their supported life cycle. It's usually only a matter of time until games start to be delisted and services start shutting down. So I just download everything I wanted on my console(s), maybe even getting a final revision of a console if they have one and loading that up with games.
not really surprising. they are running a business first and foremost and not some charity. it was pretty evident at some point the wii u was dead, especially when nintendo focused on 3ds releases rather than killer applications for the wii u, happy home designer doesnt sell systems, lol. the lack of repair drives and stuff is a slap in the face tho.
@141RobynAlecksys "Only a moron with no knowledge of the internet, smart phones, or basic reading comprehension of a box would have confused the Wii U for an add on to the Wii."
Sadly, that's an accurate description of most consumers, and the abundance of customers meeting that description DEFINITELY contributed to Wii U's dismal performance. I know that for a fact, because I worked retail when Wii U was introduced, and through to the end of its tragic life cycle.
To make matters worse, only around 50% of people who enter a store with no idea what they're doing there are even willing to listen to a retail worker who might be willing to educate them. And the number of retail workers ready to go the extra mile is shrinking by the day.
Nintendo: We are shutting down online and game services!
Me, a Citra and CEMU User: I missed the part where that's my problem.
@Willo567 " Don't question. Consume product and get excited for next one." is what your responses are to anti-consumer practices by nintendo.
Food for thought: As companies advance the technology behind their digital marketplaces and consoles, it’s possible we’ll see more common implementations of backwards compatibility.
Fewer new eras will require the eventual scrapping of the complete online infrastructure, hopefully giving digital purchases significantly longer lifespans.
We’re already seeing these trends on other platforms.
@nitrolink 2 years is not remotely ‘instant’.
@nitrolink 2 years definitely isn't "instant." I'd say giving it 2 years worth of game releases and holiday sales should definitely tell you if it's a success or not.
@stinkyx steam doesn't have separate consoles. It's just one big library for PCs
That isn’t correct. The name and confusion with the original system was a big problem whether you agree or not. The marketing overall was very poor. Plus it simply wasn’t a very good idea, wasn’t very well executed and wasn’t well supported with software, especially in its early days. EA support wouldn’t have turned it around.
2 years is more than long enough. Plus they wouldn’t have needed 2 years with the Wii U. Everyone knew it was doomed by January 2014 at the latest.
These companies have to make tough decisions. What is they were to throw resource at a failing system until e.g. its fifth year and the system still doesn’t pick up sales? That’s development capacity that could have been used to get the next one off the ground.
Nintendo managed the Wii U fairly well with 3/4 big releases a year along with a stash of filler like the VC, NES Remix and other Eshop games to keep their hardcore interested. They also launched the Mini Consoles and Amiibo to help their bottom line and supported the 3DS well while always having a plan to port a lot of the first party Wii U library to its successor. They’re very good at making a profit even if they have to eke one out.
@victordamazio I can re-sell it, therefore I own it. Simple as that
@Crono1973 Yeah, I still buy physical copies of everything if they are available, not taking any chances.
I doubt Nintendo will shut down online play for 3DS and Wii U before the end of 2024.
Emulation IS preservation, whether you guys like it or not.
@Battista Yup. And they planned ahead with not having a bunch of seperate accouns. My Xbox account is still the same as I had on the first gen Xbox.
And this is why ROM storage sites and the emulation scene are so important. The companies that own and control distribution of these systems and titles don't seem to see any value in preserving the art that these games and apps are, so somebody needs to do it. It makes me incredibly angry whenever i see Nintendo strike down another preservation site when they refuse to provide an alternative legal means of obtaining many of the titles being wiped from history.
You’re right and wrong at the same time. There is really no legislation about this at the moment. Those agreements are used to protect them, but they wouldn’t stand if a specific country create legislatures to address this problem.
@Coalescence not really, I defiantly play a few of the older games now but i definitely don’t hold the same fascination as others. Why?
@BloodNinja "Even still, you can run Steam in offline mode forever without worrying about it"
Completely wrong. Steam doesnt allow to run on offline mode indefinitely or it would be easy to share the same account to multiple devices and make them stay offline, basically pirating games. Steam does require at least a weekly login to allow access to the games you purchased.
I have to wonder how many of the people that have recently made comments here realize that this article is nearly a year old and some of the comments they're replying to were made back in February.
This is why I switched to PC master race and I am so happy that I did!
@nitrolink the truth is that nintendo (and other companies) can tell when they miss their sale targets, and predict if a console will be a success or not later in life. Most consoles, if they fail in their first years, won't magically do better later on, so it makes sense that Nintendo would start planning internally when they still had tons of unsold Wii Us.
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