Nintendo’s eShop closures are a necessary, but messy decision

Nintendo announced plans last week to shut down the Wii U and 3DS eShops, the systems’ digital storefronts, in March 2023. many games available on the platforms will not be retained.

Larger Wii U games and a handful of 3DS titles have been ported to Switch, but many titles are still stuck on these systems and cannot be ported. Once the digital storefront closes, digital-only titles will be gone forever, and physical copies of those titles will become more expensive and harder to experience. Fans and game curators were not pleased with this decision, with the Video Game History Foundation giving the most outspoken response.

Our statement on the closure of Nintendo’s legacy digital stores.

— Video Game History Foundation (@GameHistoryOrg) February 17, 2022

Following the announcement, Digital Trends spoke with an industry analyst and game curators to get a better idea of ​​what exactly prompted Nintendo to close these stores and how it could better preserve its legacy.

Why is Nintendo closing 3DS and Wii eShops?

Officially, Nintendo’s FAQ on eShop closures states that “it’s part of the natural lifecycle of any product line, as it becomes less used by consumers over time.” The answer doesn’t go into detail and might confuse those who still play games on the system or fans of games only available on Wii U or 3DS. Omdia Senior Analyst Matthew Bailey further explains Nintendo’s userbase argument, pointing out the huge gap between the number of people playing the Switch and the Wii U.

“While Omdia expects the number of Switch consoles in active use to exceed 90 million worldwide this year, the Wii U global active installed base will drop to less than one million in 2022,” says he. “Even when you include the longer-lasting 3DS family of consoles in the equation, the Switch still comfortably represents over 90% of Nintendo’s total active console install base.”

Going by the numbers alone, it makes sense that Nintendo wants to focus on the majority of its players. Bailey admits that “Switch users are already reaping the benefits of Nintendo’s emphasis on first-party development on a single platform.” Still, you could argue that Nintendo should just let eShops stay open even if it doesn’t actively update or maintain them.

Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t see this as possible due to cost and security concerns. Game Over Thrity, a Twitter user with over 20 years of experience in IT projects and infrastructure, shed light on what could have influenced Nintendo’s decision-making in a thread.

“As these systems age, they require patches, security, special contracts, updates, and staff who know how they were built (and maintained),” his Twitter feed explains. “Over time, there are security vulnerabilities, servers, code, infrastructure, etc., that cannot be brought up to modern standards. It becomes a constant struggle between maintaining legacy systems, paying people to do it, and trying to keep up with global regulations. It’s not cheap by any means. They can’t just “leave the lights on” and stop supporting them. What if someone had hacked the payment processor? »

Over the years, the Wii U and 3DS eShops have likely become more expensive to maintain and an increased security risk for the video game publisher. Instead of investing time and resources to appeal to a smaller number of players, the easiest option is to disable everything completely. Although not affiliated with Nintendo, Game Over Thirty’s rating matches what we heard from Nintendo and Omdia.

“The worldwide Wii U active installed base will drop to less than one million by 2022.”

Ultimately, the decision to shut down the eShop appears to be driven solely by security, revenue, and user base issues. This may be difficult for hardcore fans of these systems to understand, but sometimes the reality is disappointing and clinical. Whether or not people agree with Nintendo’s decision to shut down the Wii U and 3DS eShop, most fans, analysts, and conservatives could agree on one thing: Nintendo needs to do a better job of preserving games. exclusive to these platforms.

How can Nintendo better preserve its heritage?

The Nintendo Switch isn’t backwards compatible with the Wii U or 3DS, so titles from those stores are stuck unless a developer puts in the time and effort to port them to new platforms. Nintendo even admitted it in a now deleted part of the FAQ.

So far, several solutions have been proposed. The Video Game History Foundation says in its statement that Nintendo should find better ways to work with outside institutions to preserve its work. The Game Preservation Society, a Japanese non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of the gaming industry, also inquired about the matter with Digital Trends.

“Nintendo has done a poor job of preserving its history until they understand the potential of their old catalog after the launch of the Wii,” said chairman Joseph Redon. “To my knowledge, they now preserve all assets, just like Disney would for their works. What is not curated is content from third parties and independent developers. I think digitally born content should be preserved by structures like the Library of Congress. Archives need to quickly adapt to digital.

List of Nintendo Switch Online games.
So far, Nintendo has only chosen to keep select NES, SNES, and N64 titles through Nintendo Switch Online.

Most games are preserved only through emulation and piracy, which is legally dubious and not tolerated by Nintendo. As games and other digital media become more culturally relevant, it is clear that this content is not being preserved as completely as it should be. This lack of effort makes the closure of the Wii U and 3DS eShops so concerning.

“Online stores offer a lot of value to consumers, but it’s unreasonable to expect them to last forever,” Game Preservation Society member Damien Rogers told Digital Trends. “We must continue to encourage development companies to preserve their works and communicate their preservation efforts to the public so that we can be confident that their games, which are important cultural assets, will continue to be available in the future.”

“Nintendo has done a poor job of preserving its history until they understand the potential of their old catalog after the launch of the Wii.”

One day the Nintendo Switch eShop could be in the same situation, and titles that take advantage of the platform’s unique gimmicks like 1.2 Switch and Nintendo Switch Sports could be lost over time. As such, it’s clear that everyone wants Nintendo to do a better job of making sure all of its games are preserved and maybe even compatible with future platforms. Omdia expects Nintendo to improve its backwards compatibility offerings in the future.

“We expect backwards compatibility to be a core part of Nintendo’s next-generation console offering,” Bailey said. “We could also see Nintendo providing access to more of its back catalog through its Switch Online service, but that probably won’t appeal to users who have already paid to own these games on older Nintendo consoles or those looking to play older tiers. party titles.

With digital stores, gamers have much faster access to content, and independent studios have a much easier time promoting and selling their games. Yet the video game industry and companies like Nintendo are doing an extremely poor job of preserving what is actually on these platforms. Nintendo should double down on backwards compatibility, whether through ports, its Nintendo Switch Online subscription service, or simply working with organizations like the Video Game History Foundation to preserve its titles and other digital assets.

Worst-case scenario, we’ll have this discussion again in five or 10 years when Nintendo shuts down the Switch eShop. Hopefully Nintendo learns its lesson and improves, so people like Redon don’t have to deal with a “nightmare” situation like this again.

“I think digital content is a big move for a lot of good reasons,” he said, “but at the same time the worst nightmare for us game archivists.”

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