“NCL has been waiting for this day since 2014” – Former NOA employee talks about Nintendo eShop closures

Wii U Wario
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

Over the holidays, we’re re-releasing a few select features from the last 12 months. A mix of talking points, interviews, opinion pieces and more from NL staff and contributorsyou’ll find our usual mix of thoughtfulness, expertise, frivolity, retro nostalgia and – of course – enthusiasm for all things Nintendo. Happy Holidays!

Nintendo recently announced its schedule for closing its digital storefronts for both the 3DS family of systems and the Wii U. As of March 2023, you will not be able to make new purchases of any kind of digital software on the 3DS and Wii U eShops, including digital versions of physical releases, digital-only download games and all forms of DLC. You will will be able to re-download purchases made prior to this date (as well as you can still download original Wii titles previously purchased on this console) “for the foreseeable future”, but obviously this functionality will be removed at some point.

“That’s the way things go,” you might think – “it would never last forever.” And while most of us can sit and rationalize that, yeah, Of course digital services have a limited lifetime, and no, obviously We didn’t expect to be able to re-download our copy of Crimson Shroud when we’re in our 90’s, seeing digital store closures coming so comparatively quickly after these eShops first appeared is a bitter pill to swallow You’ll have to swallow if you’re at all concerned about video game storage.

Nintendo looks at the first 2 years as an indicator of when to start packing it with a console

But the fact of the matter is that Nintendo — and all companies conducting similar digital goods businesses — plan such controlled shutdowns many years in advance.

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

A failure on the part of Nintendo to concisely demonstrate the benefits and value of the GamePad controller’s asymmetrical gameplay – or to successfully differentiate the console from its predecessor in the eyes of the general public, which had played a key role in Wii’s popularity to lackluster sales from the start. By 2014, it was clear that the concept just hadn’t resonated with mainstream audiences, and according to our source, the company was quick to pivot internally and change direction.

“While NX was being worked on, you saw a test with amiibo and a bunch of weird apps that interacted with those on Wii U. Everyone was just busy filling the sales gap until NX [Switch’s code name] would arrive. Same goes for the mini consoles… panic products aimed at filling the NX gap for Christmas.”

While NX was being worked on, you saw a test with amiibo and a bunch of weird apps that interacted with those on Wii U. Everyone was just trying to fill the sales gap… The same goes for the mini consoles

The relative commercial failure of the Wii U (13.56 million units) is not nothingbut of its line of consoles, only the Virtual Boy sold fewer units) caused headaches across the business and supply issues emerged earlier in the console’s life cycle, particularly when it came to spare parts.

“We started talking Wii U repair and replacement numbers about a year before the Switch launched,” says our source. “NOA was almost out of optical drives for the repair/exchange program… and I mean, like 2016, you could see how many were left. NCL had a good stock, so they moved that stock to NOA so we could at least get the repairs done until the Switch launched, so the EOL [End-Of-Life] Program at least for the console started before the launch of NX.”

This shutdown schedule came just a few years after a “Wii U Upgrade Program” was launched internally, encouraging Wii owners to upgrade to the new console at a discount while NOA recycled the older console.

“In 2013 we were still dealing with Wii repairs and Nintendo ate about $7-10 per repair. There was a staff meeting in Spring 2014 and they were looking for ideas from the inside, either for savings or sales ideas… That’s around the time I started hearing internal jokes about ‘what are we upgrading them to when this Wii U be sent in for repair’.”

New 3DS Themes
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

When asked about the full end-of-life process and how long the ability to re-download previous 3DS and Wii U purchases might persist, our source is less than compared to Nintendo’s official statement about “the foreseeable future.” optimistic about this timeframe; They predict a complete shutdown of services within just a few years. “They will announce in 2023 that after some time the server will be shut down.” After that time, it’s suggested that online gaming, re-downloads of purchased content, and everything else will disappear entirely. “People will lose their games 100% if something happens to their Wii U or the drive they have their games on.”

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

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

We reached out to Nintendo for comment on our source’s claims and the company’s plans for the networks after March 2023. We were directed to the company’s Wii U & Nintendo 3DS eShop support page, which – as previously mentioned – states that after the end of March 2023, online gaming, software updates and the ability to re-download previously purchased content will be “for the foreseeable future.” ” remain “:

For the foreseeable future, it will still be possible to re-download games and DLC, receive software updates and enjoy online gaming on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS family systems.

Regarding online play, the site also states, “There are currently no plans to make any further changes.”

“The discussions I heard were to retire the NNID bolt-on system and just use the Nintendo Account system,” says our former NOA source. In fact, it appears that the Nintendo Network ID system that was scrapped for Switch in favor of the new Nintendo Account system (but “was intentionally bolted onto the current system so they at least merge wallets/payments and people into the Switch ecosystem sooner”) could be another reason for the company’s eagerness to shut down the storefronts and networks of last-gen consoles.

“You may change your mind about how and if they allow access to your purchased titles, but this system was such a mess to connect to Nintendo accounts that they might look for a service solution with some sort of ‘the customers make you happy” credit decide switch.”

Wii U eShop
Image: Damien McFerran / Nintendo Life

If you look at the comparatively long lifespan of the Wii Shop – which can still be accessed in 2022 to re-download titles purchased – we assumed this was simply due to the massive install base for the original Wii, which our source confirmed . “The Wii Shop was a pretty closed store environment and yes, the install base is still huge.”

Of course, those Wii purchases won’t be available for re-download forever, and it’s not unrealistic to imagine Nintendo rolling out the complete shutdown of all of its older networks – Wii, Wii U and 3DS – in one fell swoop. The company knows as well as anyone how this news will resonate with hardcore fans; From a PR perspective, getting it all out of the way at once is better than presenting multiple targets for negative press and general player dissatisfaction.

Oh who caresyou can cry – Who is playing 3DS or Wii U online now? Well, maybe more people than you think. Once upon a time, Nintendo Life Video Producer Jon Cartwright surveyed online activity for both systems – Wii U in December 2020, 3DS in January 2021 – and found a surprisingly active player base for a number of online games. Granted, these tests were conducted while much of the world was staying home more than it otherwise would be due to pandemic-related reasons, but there is obviously still demand, albeit small, from players to have these services active for as long as possible remain.

It’s not unrealistic to imagine Nintendo rolling out the complete shutdown of all of its legacy networks – Wii, Wii U and 3DS – in one fell swoop. The company knows as well as anyone how this news will resonate with hardcore fans

Ultimately, anyone stopping and considering the financial realities of maintaining servers and providing resources to networks built for previous consoles – services that are only actively used by a tiny fraction of gamers – here is the writing on the see wall. It’s little consolation for enthusiasts like us, or keeper or young gamers in 5 or 10 years old, who want to explore the libraries of these systems only to find them inaccessible.

Many of the larger 3DS and Wii U eShop games have been physically released, but not all – far from it. The price of a used 3DS has skyrocketed in recent years, with prices on auction sites reaching staggering heights, which is somewhat surprising for a system with lifetime sales of nearly 76 million units. However, if you want a nice clean one, expect to pay hundreds. Conversely, there are fewer than 14 million Wii Us in the wild and a much smaller number with copies of Affordable Space Adventures on them. Deduct from the Imagine the hard drive corruption, failures, and data loss that these systems will inevitably experience in the future, and…well, you can see why people are so passionate about the subject.

Our advice? We definitely recommend backing up your hard drives if you have any and getting your personal 3DS/Wii U affairs in order while you can. It’s easy to get caught up and be melodramatic — and we want to encourage level heads and calm conversations — but the clock is absolutely ticking.

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