In one somber tweet, Nintendo has officially announced that it will be shuttering the eShop storefront for both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U systems. While this closure has been announced now in early 2022, it will not actually commence until March of 2023. In the company’s own words, the announcement has been made to give customers “plenty of time” to tie up loose ends.
Once the storefront closes across both systems, users will no longer be able to purchase new software. Of course, this also means there will no longer be any releases of any kind across either system.
Closing up the (e)shop
The closure of the eShop across the Wii U and 3DS will be a gradual process. It begins this year as of May 23, 2022— it will no longer be possible to add funds to your account across either system using a credit/debit card by that time. There are also the Nintendo eShop gift cards that are sold in physical stores; these will stop functioning as of August 29, 2022. Even so, they’ll still be redeemable up to March 2023.
Nintendo allows customers to share their eShop balance across the Wii U, 3DS and Nintendo Switch systems. This will continue to function as normal until March 2023, where then only the Switch will benefit from any funds that are still a user’s account.
As of late March 2023, it will no longer be possible to make Nintendo eShop purchases for the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems.
More info: https://t.co/uGoxCcDZ70
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) February 16, 2022
The Wii U and 3DS won’t become total tombs, however. Nintendo confirms that online multiplayer will continue to function “for the foreseeable future”, as well as the ability to visit the eShop to redownload previously purchased games, apps and DLC. So, you’ll still be able to access content you own; you just can’t acquire anything new after March 2023.
The end of an era
Nintendo first launched the eShop on the 3DS in Spring 2011. Even from that point, it proved to be a remarkable improvement over the storefronts of the DSi and even the Wii Shop Channel. Nintendo was making it clear that digital distribution would play a much larger role in their business model. The Wii U’s version of the eShop continued to display that advancement, with features such as background downloads, and of course allowing full console titles and DLC to be completely accessible digitally on a Nintendo home system for the very first time.
Gone was the mind-numbingly tiny filesize limit of 45mb that the Wii Shop Channel had for any games/apps, which completely prevented full retail games to be digitally released on that system. This also led to an explosion of indie support during the Wii U/3DS era, with smaller studios flocking to both platforms thanks not only to this modernization of online functionality, but also due to Nintendo actively coercing indies into its camp. Of course today the success of these efforts are seen greatly on the Switch, but credit has to be given to the 3DS/Wii U for blazing the trail and setting the stage in the first place.
Another very important aspect of the Wii U/3DS eShops is none other than the Virtual Console service. First introduced with the Wii, the Virtual Console service proved to be an epic success with retro gaming enthusiasts, as it allowed for hundreds of titles from older systems to finally be enjoyed legally and easily on modern console hardware.
The Wii U/3DS rendition of the service outfitted these retro titles with even more features, like save states and remappable controls. Nintendo even used this as an opportunity to even re-release some retail DS and Wii titles that were previously physical-only, all of which came to the Wii U.
Many of the titles that are still part of the Wii U/3DS VC lineup have not been brought over to its pseudo-successor that is the Nintendo Switch Online collection. This has led to the new service being severely lambasted by some consumers for the dramatic drop in content variety compared to the Virtual Console service.
Nintendo actually addressed concerns that these VC titles would now essentially be once again lost to time after the old eShops close. Part of the announcement’s Q&A featured an answer that stated that the company still has no plans to release the remaining titles anywhere else. But, curiously enough, the page has been edited to remove this part of the Q&A; though not before screenshots were taken by users.
The way you phrased this question feels like a taunt. pic.twitter.com/AYBhO39BNv
— Riley (@NijiMarii) February 16, 2022
By means of using the Wayback Machine, it’s possible to view the answer for yourself (at the time of publication). Here’s a screengrab from the site, with Nintendo’s full answer:
SEGA Genesis and Nintendo 64 titles were added to the service a few months ago, but that only bumped NSO’s number of retro title selection from two systems to four systems; far behind what any iteration of the Virtual Console had to offer. It seems retro enthusiasts would be best to hang on to their Wii U’s and/or 3DS’ for a good while if they want to preserve their collections.
When the Nintendo eShop for the Wii U and 3DS closes fully next year, they will formally join the Wii Shop Channel which shut its virtual doors back in 2019. The Wii U was discontinued in 2017 before the release of the Nintendo Switch, and 3DS production finally ended in 2020 after nine years.