‘NCL has been waiting for this day since 2014’ – Former NOA employee talks about closing Nintendo eShop

Image: Nintendo Life

Nintendo recently announced its closing schedule for its digital storefronts for both 3DS and Wii U family systems. As of March 2023, you will not be able to make new purchases of any type of digital software from the 3DS or Wii U online stores, including digital versions of physical releases, digital-only downloadable games, and all forms of DLC. You I will be able to redownload purchases made prior to that date (in the same way that you can still redownload previously purchased original Wii games on this console) “for the foreseeable future”, but it is clear that this functionality will eventually be removed.

“That’s the way it is,” you might think, “it will never last forever.” And while most of us can sit back and rationalize it, yes, certainly digital services have a finite lifespan, and no, obviously we didn’t expect to be able to re-download our copy of Crimson Shroud when we were in our 90s, seeing as digital store closures happen so relatively quickly after these online stores first came out, it’s a bitter pill to swallow if you generally concerned about the preservation of video games.

Nintendo is looking at the first 2 years as an indicator of when consoles can start.

However, the fact is that Nintendo and all the companies that operate such stores that sell digital goods are planning a controlled closure of this kind for many years to come.

“Nintendo knows they have to support the product for at least 10 years or they risk a class action lawsuit,” a former Nintendo of America employee told us. A source who asked to remain anonymous says that Nintendo has been eyeing this shutdown for a long time, and that the 10-year shutdown will come in November 2022, ten years after the launch of the Wii U. “Internally, NCL [Nintendo Co. Ltd, the main Japanese company of which NOA is a subsidiary] been waiting for this day since 2014 based on sales…Nintendo is looking at the first 2 years as an indication of when to start packaging it with the console.”

Nintendo’s failure to succinctly showcase the benefits and value of the GamePad controller’s asymmetric gameplay—or successfully distinguish the console from its predecessor in the eyes of the general public, which was a key part of the Wii’s popularity—led to poor sales from the start. By 2014, it was clear that the concept simply didn’t resonate with the mainstream audience, and according to our source, the company quickly reversed course and changed course internally.

“While working on NX, you saw the amiibo test and a bunch of weird apps interacting with apps on the Wii U. Everyone is busy working to fill a sales void while NX [Switch’s code name] will arrive. It’s the same with mini-console…panic products designed to fill the NX gap for Christmas.”

While we were working on NX, you saw the amiibo test and a bunch of weird apps that interacted with the ones on the Wii U. Everyone is just busy working to fill a void in sales… Same thing with the mini consoles.

Relative commercial failure of the Wii U (13.56 million units) nothingbut of its line of consoles, only the Virtual Boy sold fewer units) caused headaches throughout the company, with supply issues occurring earlier in the console’s life cycle, especially when it came to repairing parts.

“We started talking about repairing and replacing the Wii U about a year before the Switch launched,” our source clarifies. “NOA is almost out of optical drives for the repair/replacement program…and I mean, in 2016 you could see how many were left. The switch is running. So EOL [End-Of-Life] at least the console program started before NX started.”

This shutdown plan comes just a couple of years after the company rolled out the “Wii U Upgrade Program” internally, which encouraged Wii owners to upgrade to a new console at a discount while NOA recycled the old console.

“In 2013 we were still doing Wii repairs and Nintendo was eating up about $7-$10 for repairs. One employee was meeting with the spring of 2014 and they were looking inside for ideas to save money or sell ideas… It was about the time I started hearing inside jokes about “what do we upgrade them to when these Wii Us go in for repairs” .

New 3DS themes
Image: Nintendo Life

When asked about the full end-of-life process and how long it might be possible to re-download previous purchases for 3DS and Wii U, our source is less than optimistic about those timings compared to Nintendo’s official “foreseeable future” line; they predict a complete closure of services in just a couple of years. “In 2023, they will notify that the server will be taken offline after a while.” It is assumed that after this time, network play, re-downloading of purchased content and everything else will completely disappear. “People will 100% lose their games if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they store their games on.”

People will 100% lose their games if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they store their games on.

The Wii hasn’t been Nintendo’s current console for ten years now, so it would be less surprising if Nintendo shut down servers soon to re-download that system. However, the Wii U was Nintendo’s main home platform until the launch of the Switch almost five years ago in March 2017, so the idea that access to redownload your digital library and play online could be removed as early as 2023/24 is really sobering.

We have reached out to Nintendo for comment regarding our source’s statements and the company’s plans for networks beyond March 2023. We were sent to the company Wii U and Nintendo 3DS eShop Opt Out Support Pagewhich, as we mentioned earlier, states that online play, software updates, and the ability to redownload previously purchased content will remain beyond the end of March 2023 “for the foreseeable future”:

For the foreseeable future, you will continue to be able to redownload games and downloadable content, receive software updates, and enjoy online play on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS family systems.

In regards to online play, the page also states that “there are currently no plans to make any further changes.”

“I heard that the discussions were about moving away from the NNID system and using only the Nintendo Account system,” says our former NOA source. In fact, it appears that the Nintendo Network ID system, which was canceled for the Switch in favor of the new Nintendo Account system (but “deliberately tied to the current system so they can at least consolidate wallets/payments and bring people into the Switch ecosystem previously ”) may be another reason for the company’s push to shut down storefronts and networks of the latest generation of consoles.

“They may change their minds about how and if they will allow access to your purchased games, but this system was so messy to tie it to Nintendo Accounts that they might opt ​​for a service solution with some kind of credit” to make the customer happy » for Switch.”

Wii U Online Store
Image: Nintendo Life

When you look at the relatively long life of the Wii Store, which can still be accessed in 2022 for re-downloading purchased games, we assumed it was simply due to the huge install base of the original Wii, which our source confirmed. “The Wii Store used to be quite a compact store, and yes, the install count is still huge.”

Of course, these Wii purchases won’t be redownloadable forever, and it’s realistic to imagine Nintendo completely shutting down all of its old networks – Wii, Wii U, and 3DS – in one fell swoop. The company knows as well as anyone how this news will be perceived by hardcore fans; From a PR standpoint, it’s better to get rid of everything at once than to present multiple targets for negative press and general player dissatisfaction.

Ah, who caresyou can cry – Who even plays 3DS or Wii U online now? Well, perhaps more people than you think. Former Nintendo Life video producer John Cartwright investigated the online activity of both systems – the Wii U in December 20203ds in January 2021 — and found a remarkably active player base for a number of online games. Of course, these tests were carried out at a time when most of the world stayed at home more than otherwise for pandemic reasons, but it is clear that there is demand from players, however small, for these services to remain active. as long as possible, still exists.

It is quite realistic to imagine that Nintendo will completely shut down all of its old networks – Wii, Wii U and 3DS – in one fell swoop. The company knows better than anyone how this news will be received by hardcore fans.

Ultimately, anyone who stops and thinks about the financial realities of maintaining servers and provisioning resources for networks built for the consoles of the past – services that are actively used by only a tiny fraction of the players – will see the writing on the wall here. For enthusiasts like us, or conservationists, or young players 5 or 10 years from now, there is little consolation to want to explore the libraries of these systems only to find them inaccessible.

Many major games for the 3DS and Wii U eShop have been released on physical media, but not all – far from always. The price of used 3DS has skyrocketed in recent years, with prices on auction sites reaching incredible levels, somewhat surprising for a system that has sold nearly 76 million units over its lifetime. However, if you want a good clean one, you can count on hundreds. Conversely, fewer than 14 million Wii Us exist in the wild, and far fewer with copies of Affordable Space Adventures on them. subtract from this imagine the hard drive damage, crashes, and data loss these systems will inevitably face in the future, and… well, you can see why people are so passionate about this topic.

Our advice? We strongly recommend that you back up your hard drives, if you have them, and get your 3DS/Wii U files in order while you can. It’s easy to get up in arms and melodramatic – and we aim to encourage poise and calm conversation – but the clock is absolutely ticking.

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