On Wednesday, Nintendo announced that it will shut down the Wii U and 3DS online stores next year. As of late March 2023, Wii U and 3DS owners will no longer be able to make digital purchases from the Nintendo eShop. Additionally, free content will no longer be available for download, including game demos and apps. Prior to closing the eShops on the Wii U and the 3DS family of systems, Nintendo will begin to shutter related services as well.
Nintendo eShop closing on Wii U and 3DS
The staggered shutdown begins on May 23, 2022, which is when the Nintendo eShop on the Wii U and 3DS will no longer let customers use credit cards to add funds to an account. Then, on August 29, it will no longer be possible to use a Nintendo eShop Card to add any funds to an account. Nintendo will let customers redeem download codes until March 2023.
Users who link a Nintendo Network ID wallet (Wii U and 3DS) with a Nintendo Account wallet (Switch) can use the shared balance to buy content on all three systems until March of 2023. After that, the balance can only be used to purchase content on Switch.
Finally, Nintendo says 3DS and Wii U owners will still be able to redownload games and DLC, receive software updates, and play online after March 2023 “and for the foreseeable future.” In other words, you won’t lose access to content you’ve already bought.
Why is this happening?
Nintendo attempted to explain why the Wii U eShop and 3DS eShop are shutting down in a short FAQ on its website. According to Nintendo, “this is part of the natural lifecycle for any product line” as it becomes less popular. The company is announcing these closures more than a year in advance in order to give users “plenty of time to prepare.”
Unsurprisingly, many fans are unsatisfied with the company’s explanation. Making matters worse, Nintendo actually deleted one of the responses shortly after the support page went live. Here was the question that Nintendo has since removed:
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?
And here is the apparently unsatisfactory answer that Nintendo provided:
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.
Nintendo’s war on game preservation
As Polygon notes, the Wii U eShop currently offers more than 300 classic titles on the Virtual Console. Meanwhile, the 3DS eShop offers 191 classic titles. Playing these games legitimately is already tough, and now Nintendo is making it even harder. At the same time, the company is hellbent on ensuring that no one pirates its old games.
Nintendo rarely changes course once plans are in motion, no matter how consumers receive those plans. There will undoubtedly be backlash over this decision for months to come. The chances of Nintendo giving any of that backlash any attention are slim to none.