The closure of Nintendo’s 3DS and Wii U stores hurts Game Preservation & Trust
The legacy of Nintendo cannot be overstated in the video gaming world, but the recent decision to close the 3DS and Wii U eShops (without providing ways to access Virtual Console content) shows that legacy is not in good hands . These closures are more than a simple inevitability of progress. Dealing with the closures is a major blow to the preservation of the game, and an equally major blow to all players making digital purchases in the current Nintendo Switch ecosystem. The extensive library of Virtual Console games from nine different consoles will no longer be available to players, cutting off the ability to legally purchase classic titles on near-latest hardware. Nintendo’s indifference to the obligation to provide its own back catalog is also troubling, and the lack of backwards compatibility across generations devalues any purchases made for the Switch.
Not long ago, Nintendo maintained a number of consumer-friendly business decisions and maintained the rich history of its past console libraries. The Wii U might not have connected with consumers, but it wasn’t the lack of consumer-friendly features that made the Wii U a superior value for the Switch. The Wii U was backward compatible with the original Wii’s games and controllers, much like the current Xbox Series X/S consoles for Xbox One games and peripherals. It also boasted the most robust virtual console selection of any console to date, offering games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System, the Super NES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, as well as Hudson Soft’s TurboGrafx-16. The concurrent 3DS portable console offered similar functionality with DS backwards compatibility and a virtual console featuring titles from the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, NES, Super NES, and Sega’s Game Gear.
After the commercial failure of the Wii U, Nintendo ended its nearly 30-year history of offering a portable console alongside a dedicated home console with the Switch, a hybrid that merged Nintendo’s two product lines into a single piece of hardware. Switch-like hybrid designs are likely Nintendo’s future, but the new era comes at a price. The Switch ended Nintendo’s quest to maintain an earlier generation backwards compatibility present in every of its portable consoles after the original Game Boy and every home console after the GameCube. The move to a cartridge-based system accounted for the lack of compatibility with Wii U discs, and the 3DS’ unique screen format might justify omitting that system’s compatibility. However, the fact that the Virtual Console titles from the Wii U and 3DS were not supported by the Switch has no justification, and with the closure of these systems’ digital storefronts, gamers will be cut off from significant chapters in gaming history.
Switch Online is not an adequate replacement for virtual console support
As reported by Kotaku, when Nintendo originally announced plans to close Wii U and 3DS storefronts, the FAQ included an entry acknowledging the damage to the game’s preservation and trying to put a positive spin on the closure. The entry read:
“(Ask) Once it is no longer possible to purchase software from Nintendo eShop for Wii U and Nintendo 3DS family systems, many classic games for previous platforms will no longer be widely available. Will you be making classic games available for ownership in any other way? If not, then why? Isn’t Nintendo committed to preserving its classic games by continually making them available for purchase?“
“(Reply) Our Nintendo Switch Online membership plans currently have over 130 classic games available in growing libraries for various legacy systems. The games are often enhanced with new features such as online games. We believe this is an effective way to make classic content easily available to a wide range of players. In these libraries, new and veteran players alike can find not only games they remember or have heard of, but also other fun games that they might not otherwise have thought of. We currently have no plans to offer classic content in any other way.”
Nintendo subsequently removed this entry from the closure FAQ, likely due to the poor reception of its attempt to promote Switch Online as the virtual console’s successor. The subscription-based library of games included with the Switch Online service pales in comparison to the 300+ games currently available through the Wii U virtual console selection. Game Boy games are rumored to be coming to Switch Online soon, and other legacy consoles are likely planned for the future. Given that the Switch is clearly capable of emulating older consoles, the decision not to honor previous-gen virtual console purchases with backwards compatibility is a slap in the face for Nintendo fans.
Nintendo isn’t the only company making similar anti-consumer moves. While the PlayStation 5’s backwards compatibility with PS4 games is among its best qualities, the PS4 previously made a mistake by not offering digitally owned PS1 and PS2 classics purchased through the PS3 or Vita-E stores supported. Xbox Series X/S support for digitally purchased Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games stands out as the most consumer-friendly on the current console market and helps preserve the games by allowing those previous generation games to be purchased current hardware are made available. It also inspires trust among gamers that Nintendo gambled away in handling its own e-store closure.
Losing Wii U and 3DS virtual console compatibility is also a loss of trust
Many gamers debate the pros and cons of buying physical vs digital video games. Digital purchases certainly require a certain level of trust. The DRM-free games sold through GOG are at one end of the spectrum, and the storefront recently removed a Hitman title for violating GOG’s DRM-free rules. PC games sold through storefronts like GOG, Epic, and Steam are “generational” indifferent, an advantage consoles don’t have. Buying a digital game within a console ecosystem still offers more security than Google Stadia, a streaming service of questionable longevity. Consoles that offer next-gen support for previous-gen digital purchases help to some extent bridge the trust gap and give console gamers a taste of the security that PC gamers enjoy.
Knowing that the current-gen Xbox Series X/S consoles support previous-gen Xbox One purchases, including the selection of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that the system supports, adds value to those purchases. The 76 games added to the Xbox backwards compatibility list at the end of 2021 appear to be the last, which is unfortunate, but there’s good reason to believe that games purchased in the Xbox digital ecosystem will be affected by future hardware revisions will remain playable based on this precedent. Powering the majority of PS4 digital purchases, the PS5 will similarly add value to games purchased within the Sony ecosystem and help rebuild the trust lost with the PS4. With the Switch, Nintendo’s “reboot” certainly resonated with the market, and the novelty of a hybrid console is undeniable. However, the decision to drop support for virtual consoles suggests that all games purchased within the Nintendo ecosystem are not guaranteed “forward compatibility,” undermining trust in the e-store and its value to gamers harms.
Nintendo is launching a new online storefront for the Switch that promises a sleeker design and better handling of its rewards program. This new storefront sadly comes with the deplorable announcement of the Wii U and 3DS eShop closures, along with their toneless response to game preservation and backwards compatibility. Games will be easier to find in the new Nintendo eShop, but gamers are now considering their purchases knowing that backwards compatibility and supporting previous-gen purchases on next-gen hardware are not a priority for the company. All games, including physical media titles, are finite in nature. Older consoles break over time, discs get scratched and cartridges deteriorate. No matter how durable a piece of hardware’s design may be, nothing lasts forever. Knowing about a digital purchase in a given ecosystem is likely to add value (and inspire confidence) to gamers in the inevitable next-gen hardware. The eShop closure and its poor replacement in the form of Switch Online certainly hurts the preservation of games and the availability of classic games, but the biggest sacrifice is trust Nintendo has lost with his fans.
Next: How Pokemon Home Bank Transfers Work After the 3DS Store Closes
90 Day Fiancé: Ella’s IG Story Reveals Relationship Status With Johnny
About the author