In a move that has sadly been inevitable for some time, Nintendo announced late on Tuesday, February 15th, 2022, that they would begin the process of shutting down the eShops for both the 3DS and WiiU systems starting this year, and culminating in March of 2023, abandoning another console’s history to the eBay aftermarket. They also set up a cutesy little Spotify Wrapped-esque website for the dying consoles, so that you can “bring back your gaming memories.”
According to Nintendo, the timeline looks like this:
- May 23, 2022 – It will no longer be possible to use a credit card to add funds to an account in Nintendo eShop on Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
- August 29, 2022 – It will no longer be possible to use a Nintendo eShop Card to add funds to an account in Nintendo eShop on Wii U or the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
- “Late” March 2023 – It will no longer be possible to redeem download codes.
So if you wanted to get in any last minute purchases, don’t go thinking you’ve got another whole year to do so. Credit card transactions shut down in just 3 short months, and all other transactions effectively shut down in August. After that point, it will no longer be possible to purchase 3DS or WiiU games from Nintendo. In a FAQ listing that Nintendo has since removed, they justified their decision thusly:
This has unfortunately become par for the course for older gaming systems with online shops. Sony backtracked from entirely shutting down its PS3 and Vita online shops (for now) after widespread backlash, but stopped accepting all card and PayPal transactions for those shops in October of last year. And of course, Nintendo themselves previously shut down the Wii Shop Channel back in 2019.
As more and more gaming companies, Nintendo included, pivot to subscription services, it’s becoming harder and harder to purchase and outright own older games. Nintendo’s excuse for shutting down the only place you can buy 3DS and WiiU games – and their respective Virtual Console offerings – at a reasonable price is essentially that they offer some retro games on Switch Online, so it’s fine. As if that makes up for it. They just added EarthBound literally last week. My hopes for the gargantuan DS/3DS/WiiU library are not high.
This is to say nothing of the fact that 3DS and WiiU games are unique to their hardware form factors, and in most cases very difficult or annoying to emulate. Those eShops are the last best place to experience these specific pieces of gaming history in their original forms.
There are those who might argue that Nintendo can’t just keep those servers running forever, since it most likely costs them An Amount of Money. But it probably does not cost anywhere near the ~$13 billion Nintendo has in cash on hand, though, so that’s bullshit. Why are we so willing to accept that keeping these services on indefinitely, that preserving gaming history, is too much to ask of major corporations?
I can see two motivations behind Nintendo shutting down their eShops, taking for granted that any financial burden of keeping them on is entirely negligible:
1. They have a vested interest in taking these games off the market (and driving prices on eBay to unreasonable heights) so that they can, in a handful of years, reintroduce some of them on new hardware, either via re-releases and remasters, or through their subscription service.
2. They simply don’t give a shit.
If option 1 is the case, then what about all the smaller titles that Nintendo doesn’t deign to offer on their platform du jour in the future, or that fall through the cracks of IP ownership? This is tantamount to the destruction of a vibrant, 15-year period of gaming history for the sake of maybe making some more money off of nostalgia and/or the scarcity they are currently manufacturing. Which is not out of character for Nintendo (or any corporation), it just sucks shit.
Honestly, option 2 seems much more likely to me. Companies like Nintendo do not exist to think about the history they leave behind, they exist to squeeze every possible ounce of profit out of their employees, the art they create, and their customers. If the 3DS and WiiU eShops are not generating revenue at an acceptable threshold, then they are no longer useful to Nintendo, and they’ll cut them loose no matter the cost of keeping their lights on because, at the end of the day, it is a cost.
As long as this is the way the games industry operates, without any mechanisms in place to preserve these games before the companies who own them decide to burn their own history books, we will lose things. And as long as companies like Nintendo and others continue to also employ a strategy of harsh legal penalties for anyone who tries to preserve their history for them, through emulation, homebrew, etc., many of the things that we lose will be lost permanently.
I’ll leave you with some tweets, and a reminder that if you know where to look, there are other ways to, as Nintendo says, “bring back your gaming memories.”