Does the Nintendo Wii U eShop Closure Affect You?

Nintendo Wii U

The Nintendo Wii U eShop is set to close; the same is true for the eShop accessible from the 3DS family of handhelds.

Nintendo this week announced that from late March 2023, online purchases through the eShop for both systems will come to an end. Other services will also cease, including using a credit card to fund accounts from May 2022, and an eShop Card to fund accounts from August 2022. Shared balances linked through the Nintendo Switch-centred Nintendo Account wallets can be used until March 2023, however.

Here’s Nintendo’s announcement:

Applies to: New Nintendo 3DS, New Nintendo 3DS XL, New Nintendo 2DS XL, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 3DS XL, Nintendo 2DS, Wii U Deluxe, Wii U Basic.

As of late March 2023, it will no longer be possible to make purchases in Nintendo eShop for the Wii U system and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems. It will also no longer be possible to download free content, including game demos. Furthermore, as this date draws closer, related services will cease to function:

As of 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.

As of 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. However, it will still be possible to redeem download codes until late March 2023.

Users who link their Nintendo Network ID wallet (used with Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems) with their Nintendo Account wallet (used with the Nintendo Switch family of systems) can use the shared balance to purchase content on any of these systems until late March 2023. After that, the balance can only be used to purchase content for the Nintendo Switch family of systems.

No changes are planned for Nintendo eShop on the Nintendo Switch family of systems.

The changes to Nintendo eShop on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems will simultaneously take effect in software on these platforms where it is possible to make purchases, such as StreetPass Mii Plaza, Theme Shop and Nintendo Badge Arcade.

Even after late March 2023, and for the foreseeable future, it will still be possible to redownload games and DLC, receive software updates and enjoy online play on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.

Of course, if you don’t have a Nintendo Wii U or 3DS that you regularly play or simply don’t use the online services, none of this will matter particularly. Even if you do, and rely on online services on these platforms, Nintendo has stated that redownloading games and DLC and taking part in online play should remain possible beyond March 2023. So is it really that big a deal?

Well if you’re interested in game preservation, the answer has to be a big fat “yes.” Nintendo has stated in a website Q&A that it intends to use the Switch platform to make more retro games available, but given the number they cite is 130 that is a fraction of the games available on the Wii U and 3DS combined (more than 2,000), yet refers to SNES, NES, N64, GameCube…

The authority on this matter, of course, is the Video Game History Foundation.

“While it is unfortunate that people won’t be able to purchase digital 3DS or Wii U games anymore, we understand the business reality that went into this decision. What we don’t understand is what path Nintendo expects its fans to take, should they wish to play these games in the future. As a paying member of the Entertainment Software Association, Nintendo actively funds lobbying that prevents even libraries from being able to provide legal access to these games. Not providing commercial access is understandable, but preventing institutional work to preserve these titles on top of that is actively destructive to video game history.

We encourage ESA members like Nintendo to rethink their position on this issue and work with existing institutions to find a solution.”

Our emphasis there, but you can see that the Foundation has a strong argument. Would it really take that much for Nintendo to backtrack? The alternative will only result in fans potentially breaking copyright laws in order to retain material that might otherwise be lost. One might think we’d be able to move past that method of preservation given the growing importance of retro gaming and computing.

Ultimately, this was always going to happen. It seems a shame that the option to buy games online for a handheld as popular as the DS/3DS is being taken away. The Wii U was no big hitter, of course, but it isn’t without its share of decent games and supporters. You get the feeling that closing the Nintendo Wii U eShop might force more Wii U users towards unlocking the system and taking the homebrew option.