On February 15, 2022 Nintendo made waves on social media, and not in a good way. They announced that in late March of 2023 they would be shutting down the Wii U and 3DS eShops for good. According to Nintendo’s website, you can still re-download games, play online, and get game/system updates after March of 2023. Those services will still be available, only the shop will be closed which sparked many to panic and memes aplenty were born.
So why has this become a hot topic on social media and why should us retro gamers be alarmed? With the closure of the Wii U and 3DS eShop also comes with the closure of Nintendo’s Virtual Console. A service that started with the Wii and became the go to avenue for younger gamers to play older games without buying the original hardware. The 3DS has a decent library of Virtual Console games ranging from the NES, Game Boy, Game Gear, and Game Boy Color games but the Wii U has the mother load. NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and TurboGrafx-16 games are available for the system. For those who did buy a Wii U it became a haven for retro games, especially when Metroid Dread was announced. Many gamers played Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion through the GBA Virtual Console. Having the TurboGrafx-16 was also a need addition since not many knew the system even existed. With the Wii U you could finally play those games without having to track them down and pay through the nose for them.
The main reason people are up in arms about this news is that many games won’t become available to purchase once the shop goes away. Nintendo continues to add fuel to the fire by saying they don’t have plans to add any of their legacy content to the Nintendo Switch eShop or add the digital exclusive Wii U games. A great meme video has been made that accurately depicts fan’s reactions to this which you can watch right here. Rumors of them putting Game Boy games on the Nintendo Switch Online (NSO) service have persisted for months and many still hope that becomes a reality. With the Virtual Console disappearing there won’t be a legal way to get classic Nintendo games digitally. Games like Oracle of Ages/Seasons, Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal, and Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars will be even harder to come by. These game’s physical carts (especially the Pokémon ones) have continually rose in price with no sign of going down. Which makes gamers worried that prices for certain games will go up even higher once the eShop is closed. Outside of the older games, newer ones that never got a physical release in North America are also doomed to disappear. Games like Dr. Luigi, the Boxboy series, and Harmoknight will all be gone.
With all of this doom and gloom you wonder if there is any good news? Well the small silver lining fans have is that they have a little over a year to load up on games from the eShop. Sadly you may have a year to load up on games, but only a few months to add money to your Wii U/3DS wallets. According to Eurogamer, May 23rd is the last day you can add funds with a credit card, and August 29th is the last day you can add funds via a Nintendo eShop gift card. The point is that the clock is ticking to not just download your games, but also to add money to pay for them as well. If you’ve been in the market for a 3DS or a Wii U now is the time to get one and load it up with these Virtual Console and digital only games. Even if you don’t want mostly Virtual Console titles there are some great games that have become a hunt to find physically and the best way to get them is digitally. Xenoblade Chronicles X has been the prime example of this. True it has a physical release and according to Pricecharting at the time of this writing the game isn’t too expensive CIB. Things can change in a year and that price can rise to astronomical heights in the following year after the closure. It’s not just Xenoblade either, Zelda games like Twilight Princess and Wind Waker have HD remakes for the Wii U that may soon become difficult to find. For the 3DS, the Pokémon games like Ultra Sun/Moon or Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire are already expensive enough physically, so getting them digitally is your cheapest bet.
So what should Nintendo do after the shops close? Many say the smartest thing to do is put their legacy content on Switch and I agree with them. Nintendo constantly reminds us how much they hate piracy but they keep putting roadblocks in our way to access older games we love so much. While the NSO apps and the Classic mini consoles are nice and do help, they aren’t 100% perfect, especially the NSO. It seems that every time Nintendo makes a step forward they take a step and a half back. We all knew these digital store fronts would close eventually, but having no plans to move some of their most beloved (and lucrative) content to the Switch seems like a dumb business move. It’s no secret that ever since Satoru Iwata passed away the new heads at Nintendo have been more profit driven and its come back to bite them more than once. Sadly, unlike when Sony announced the closure and the not-closure of the PS3/Vita stores, it seems like Nintendo will still stay their current course. Despite the negative feedback from fans. While us gamers can only wait and see what happens, we should still be happy that we have some time to save up, and buy as many games as we want for these systems before the clock strikes midnight and they’re gone for good.