It's been over a decade (or nearly a decade in Wii U's case), but it's finally happening: Nintendo is closing down the Wii U and 3DS eShops, meaning that soon you will no longer be able to buy digital games on either platform.
Of course, this change won't take place until March 2023, which means there's still time for you to grab all the downloadable games you can fit in your digital arms and run. But with credit card payment support ending sooner on May 23rd, 2022, and Nintendo eShop cards ceasing to redeem from August 29th, 2022, we want to make sure that you get those games in time, and don't run into any lack-of-fund-related mishaps.
We've also got guides to exactly which games you should be panic-buying before they all run out like toilet paper in 2020. Here's our list of the Best 3DS eShop exclusives for starters, and we'll give you the Wii U one when it's ready.
Here's everything you need to know about the 3DS and Wii U eShop closures, all in one handy place!
3DS and Wii U eShop Closure Guide - When, How, WHY?!?!
When does the Wii U eShop close?
The Wii U eShop closure will happen some time in late March, 2023.
When does the 3DS eShop close?
The 3DS eShop closure will also happen some time in late March, 2023. We don't yet know if it's the same day as the Wii U closure, although it would seem likely.
What does the eShop closing mean?
Broadly, it means that you won't be able to buy or download new games on the 3DS or Wii U eShop after March 2023, and you also won't be able to purchase in-game content, download demos or free-to-play software, redeem download codes, or add funds to your account on 3DS or Wii U.
You will be able to redownload purchased content after the March 2023 cut-off for an for an undisclosed amount of time.
Can I still add funds to buy games?
Yes, but only until May 23rd, 2022 if you're using a credit card, and only until August 29th, 2022 if you have bought an eShop card.
HOWEVER! Currently, if your Nintendo Network IDs (used on 3DS and Wii U) are linked with your Nintendo Account (used on Switch), your eShop funds are shared across the Nintendo Switch eShop and the 3DS/Wii U eShops.
This will be the case until March 2023, so you'll still be able to add funds by doing it on the Switch, but only if your Nintendo Accounts are linked.
WHY is this happening?
Here's Nintendo's statement on the subject:
"This is part of the natural lifecycle for any product line as it becomes less used by consumers over time. We are providing this notice more than a year in advance of the end of purchases so users will have plenty of time to prepare."
Does this affect the Nintendo Switch eShop?
No, the Nintendo Switch eShop will still work just fine. Who knows, it might run even better now that Nintendo has more free servers, but let's not count our eShop chickens before they've hatched.
But no. Realistically, no effect whatsoever on the Switch eShop.
Can I still redownload games?
As long as you already own a game on the 3DS or Wii U, you'll be able to redownload it from the eShop "for the foreseeable future".
That means that redownloading will still be possible after March 2023, but we don't know how long for.
What about online play?
Good news: Online play will also still be available "for the foreseeable future" for any titles you already own, past March 2023.
Again, we don't know exactly how long.
Can I still download software updates?
Software updates will be made available "for the foreseeable future" as well.
Can I still download free software?
Free software, including "free-to-start" software like Nintendo Badge Arcade, will be available for download until March 2023. After that, it disappears with the rest of the games.
What about the Virtual Console?
Sadly, the Virtual Consoles — which housed more than 530 classic games, available to purchase and download — will be no more after March 2023.
Nintendo's FAQ on the subject of the eShop closures initially addressed this, but the details were soon removed from the page. Here's what they originally said (you can also click here to access the archived page yourself):
Once it is no longer possible to purchase software in Nintendo eShop on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, many classic games for past platforms will cease to be available for purchase anywhere. Will you make classic games available to own some other way? If not, then why? Doesn’t Nintendo have an obligation to preserve its classic games by continually making them available for purchase?
Across our Nintendo Switch Online membership plans, over 130 classic games are currently available in growing libraries for various legacy systems. The games are often enhanced with new features such as online play.
We think this is an effective way to make classic content easily available to a broad range of players. Within these libraries, new and longtime players can not only find games they remember or have heard about, but other fun games they might not have thought to seek out otherwise.
We currently have no plans to offer classic content in other ways.
What does it mean that they removed this section from the FAQ? We can't say. We can hope that the Virtual Console will return some day, but for now, it's just a hope.
Nintendo's stance is that the Nintendo Switch Online service will replace the Virtual Console, but with no Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, DS, and Wii games available on Nintendo Switch Online, it'll take a long time to catch up.
Will this affect physical games?
No, physical games will still work just fine. As long as you're taking good care of them.
Can I still buy Nintendo eShop cards that say they're for Wii U/3DS? Will they work on Switch?
If you visit a shop that still sells eShop cards for the Wii U and 3DS, you can still purchase them — they'll work just fine on the Nintendo Switch, and you'll be able to input the codes on the Switch eShop.
Can I still purchase in-game content?
After March 2023, you will not be able to purchase in-game content, including:
- Anything from Nintendo Badge Arcade
- The StreetPass Mii Plaza DLC games
- Any themes from the 3DS theme shop
- An annual pass for Pokémon Bank
- Passes and DLC for Wii Sports Club's various sports
Pokémon Bank will, however, become a free service after March 2023, so you probably shouldn't be paying for it anyway.
Can I redeem game download codes?
You'll be able to redeem download codes until March 2023.
Can I still download and buy 3DS themes?
Yes and no. You won't be able to buy any new ones after March 2023, but you will be able to download "a small number of free themes".
Which means you should pick up all the wicked SEGA-themed ones ASAP.
So, in summary: It's happening, you've got a year to get all the games, and then you'll be out of time. FOREVER. All digital media is fleeting and we're all slowly crawling towards the grave, buy video games while you can. And preferably, buy them physically — because who knows when they'll be cruelly ripped from you.
If you've got any further questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and we'll do our best to address them.