Wii U eShop Nindies
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

While many of us treasure the broad range of games that modern gaming brings us through download stores, we're regularly reminded that these platforms — and the creations they host — are finite. That came into focus recently when Nintendo announced the timeline for closing both the Wii U and 3DS eShop stores. While a number of games from that generation are available on Switch or other systems, there are also a number of exclusives and less common games that, next year, will theoretically be off the market forever.

A lot of the focus has been on how players and consumers feel about this, and feelings have run high. We decided, though, to reach out to some publishers and developers that had notable releases on these stores, to get their views on the upcoming closures.

We posed the same set of questions to the following:

3DS eShop
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Were you notified by Nintendo of the eShop closures prior to the announcement?

Jools Watsham, Atooi: No, I don't recall receiving any information about the eShop closure prior to the public announcement.

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: Yes. Nintendo have always maintained communication with us re: any important developer-related news.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: I can't recall if I received a notification, however I wasn't surprised they decided to shut down the 3DS eShop

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: No, we haven’t received any notification from Nintendo, but they aren’t obliged to as our contract and royalties period is over. (the games are pretty old now!)

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: I can't answer because I'm not sure!

Had you anticipated the closure beforehand, or given much thought to when it might occur?

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: I think it was predictable that it would have been closed down sooner or later.

Martin Pichlmair, Broken Rules: I think I never actively thought about this development but neither am I surprised. It’s the logical conclusion of how online stores work in the moment.

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: We had considered the possibility of the store closing (especially with the launch/success of new hardware) but we didn’t really give much thought to when this might happen.

Of course it's sad to see them vanish, on the other side every developer can decide if its worthwhile to put extra work into these games and make them available somewhere else.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: No, I hadn't. But I was fully aware this will eventually happen, like the DSi Shop.

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: We expected that this would happen sooner or later, as it did with WiiWare in the past.

Jools Watsham, Atooi: I suppose it was inevitable that the 3DS and Wii U eShops would close at some point, but I hadn't given it much thought, honestly.

How do you feel about your titles not being available to purchase on these platforms?

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: I’m saddened by it of course, but it cannot be helped as the platforms they run on are quite old. I wish there was some way for people to still buy and play these games.

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: In our case it's 6 titles that we will lose (Fast Racing Neo, Art of Balance Wii U, Nano Assault Ex, Nano Assault Neo, Fun Fun Minigolf Touch & Art of Balance Touch). Of course it's sad to see them vanish, on the other side every developer can decide if its worthwhile to put extra work into these games and make them available somewhere else. Whether these older titles would get an audience again is a question that has to be answered very differently for each title. For 'Art of Balance' we decided to create a Switch version some time ago because we felt it really deserved to make another round on a new system.

Jools Watsham, Atooi: It is sad to know the end of the 3DS and Wii U era is coming to a definitive close in the near future. I always hope for them to endure. But, from a business perspective, it makes sense, honestly. Sales of our games on the 3DS eShop have been very low for the past few years, with most people's focus being on the Switch. I expect a lot of the reasoning for Nintendo to close the 3DS and Wii U eShops is to shift their resources to other areas within the company that produce money for them.

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: To be truthful, it’s mixed feelings. In an ideal world – and as gamers first and foremost – we’d love to see all platforms/games/hardware stay live and fully supported for the foreseeable future: I think most gamers would. But we also have to be honest and realistic about the finite nature of digital sales/stores from a business POV.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: To be honest, 3DS sales reduced a lot, the revenue right now is almost nothing unless we have a sale. So it's acceptable for me.

Wii U eShop 2
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Will these store closures have a financial impact on your studio?

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: Yes of course. These older eShop titles paid our Shin'en office rent for 2021. Though I want to mention that our office is the same since 1999 and not that big!

Jools Watsham, Atooi: Very little impact.

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: Siesta Fiesta was always intended as a 3DS exclusive, so it’s more disappointing that the game won’t be available for future players, rather than it having a large financial consequence.

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: No, because we are past the end of our agreement.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: It won't, because we have adjusted our business model and reduced expenses recently, so now it's balanced. For example COVID made a larger financial impact compared with this.

Have you noticed a change in download numbers since the announcement?

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: The last sales showed an increase of about 300% for some of our older eShop titles. So it seems that people take their chance!

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: This isn’t something we’ve assessed just yet.

Jools Watsham, Atooi: Yes, there has been a small bump in sales. Perhaps it would have been a larger increase if our games weren't also available on Switch as well as a physical 3DS release called Atooi Collection, published by Limited Run Games, which features all five of our 3DS eShop titles: Mutant Mudds, Bomb Monkey, Xeodrifter, Mutant Mudds Super Challenge, and Chicken Wiggle.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: I have not seen any change yet.

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: We haven’t had access to download numbers since the end of the agreement period.

Siesta Fiesta is still a 3DS eShop exclusive
Image: Mojo Bones

Do you have thoughts on the game preservation aspect of these stores closing; if so, how do you think it could be handled differently?

Manfred Linzner, Shin'en: From a game and developer side I would like to have these shops running forever. From Nintendo's side i understand that there may be reasons to decide against that. Perhaps it's a chance for publishers like Super Rare Games, Limited Run Games or Strictly Limited Games to make collections of such games available?

Jools Watsham, Atooi: Due to the unique and varied nature of Nintendo's hardware platforms, from the unique controller of the Nintendo 64 to the dual screens of the DS and 3DS, it is always going to be difficult to preserve the Nintendo experience for future enjoyment. I don't know what the ideal solution is, but I do feel it is important to try to bring those experiences forward. A lot of the effort is going to fall into the hands of the developers. We will continue to adapt our titles to newer platforms so fans and new players can continue to enjoy them.

Dylan Cuthbert, Q-Games: I’m not sure how differently it could be handled, apart from maybe it would be cool if Nintendo made the games available in some kind of emulated environment on the Switch. Games like X-Scape deserve to be played more! Starship Defense is also a super little game with tons of character and class.

Martin Pichlmair, Broken Rules: This is such an interesting problem. On one hand I’m personally very much in the “all things must pass” department that does not spend a lot of thought on the loss of culture through time. Most media ages badly anyway and is better forgotten. Plus, we keep making new, often better, things.

At the same time it is so that we designed a system (our specific interpretation of digital capitalism) so that some cultural goods got an expiration date. Given their dependence on specific hardware, games are more affected by this than any other media I can think of, except maybe media art & online art. You can still read a 100 year old book because it doesn’t require much preserved infrastructure. So we lose some kinds of culture whereas others survive much longer. I guess architecture and cave paintings win this race.

Ideally I would like to see a world where we can release the source code to our games to the world and preservation efforts have an easy time wrapping them in emulators, loading them onto carefully maintained museum copies of old hardware, and analysing them for later studies. Alas, we can’t do that because we link to different kinds of proprietary software.

Ideally I would like to see a world where we can release the source code to our games to the world and preservation efforts have an easy time wrapping them in emulators.

Stuart Ryall, Mojo Bones: It’s a really important discussion. The medium of video games is relatively new when compared to traditional art, writing, music and film. We also need to consider that our medium is technologically driven, which makes preservation more challenging than other art forms, especially when the technology driving it moves so fast. This topic also becomes a lot more important as we move towards the ‘games-as-service’ model. Live updates are great at keeping games fresh/engaging for players, but once they are no longer cost effective to run or maintain (or a new iteration is released), audiences are always left behind.

Areas like smartphone/tablet are also challenging, where platform owners and manufacturers have the ability to render games/apps useless with each yearly hardware iteration and/or firmware update. At the very least, companies like Nintendo do a great job of making sure there’s always hardware/software parity whenever new hardware is released. This is great for both developers and gamers – and at the very least - helps give digital software its optimal ’shelf life’.

Chris Chau, CIRCLE: I think it's fair to allow people to download these games again, if they want to replay them, sometimes older stuff can be a precious memory for someone.

For me, it reminds me to make a sequel for our 3DS games!

3DS EShop
Image: Nintendo Life

We'd like to thank all of those that took part in this feature, giving a developer and publisher insight into the upcoming store closures. Let us know what you think, as always, in the comments.

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