Nintendo Will End Game Downloads for Wii U and 3DS Next Year

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Game consoles don’t last forever, and the same goes for the online services to which they connect. If you’ve got an aging Nintendo 3DS or Wii U that you’re nursing along, this might be your last chance to grab digital content for them. Nintendo has announced it will sunset the eShops for both these devices in March 2023. The shutdown is phased and will start long before that when Nintendo stops accepting new funds for eShop accounts later this year. When the Wii U store goes down, that will also mean the end for Nintendo’s beloved Virtual Console. 

There will no doubt be gamers who decry this decision, but Nintendo paints this as the way console lifecycles work. With fewer people playing on these platforms, it doesn’t make sense to continue supporting the eShops. And this doesn’t mean the end of the Wii U and 3DS as gaming devices — you’ll still be able to download content you already own “for the foreseeable future.” However, most eShop functionality will end next year.  Before the big day in March 2023, Nintendo says it will stop allowing credit card funding for purchases. That comes on May 23rd of this year. Redemption of physical eShop gift cards will be allowed through August 29th, though. If you want to buy anything from the eShop, you’ll have to get your funds in place before the cutoffs. 

After the shutdown, you won’t be able to get any new content. That includes paid DLC for games you own, free demos, and free-to-start games. Online services will continue to function, at least for now. You’ll still be able to play games, but it does feel like Nintendo is ready to move on from these products. It has created a retrospective page for the 3DS and Wii U where you can see your stats one last time. 

The end of the Wii U eShop also marks the end of Nintendo’s Virtual Console. This service made it possible to enjoy Nintendo’s catalog of retro games on new hardware. It was a massive hit when it launched on the Wii in 2006, and there was an outcry when Nintendo shut the service down on that console in 2019. This will probably be the last we see of it, too. Nintendo said it doesn’t plan to bring it back. The modern equivalent is less widely praised. Subscribing to Nintendo Switch Online grants access to about 130 retro titles, but you’re out of luck if the ones you remember fondly aren’t there. In a telling move, the company removed a question from its FAQ asking whether or not Nintendo had a responsibility to classic game preservation by making its titles available for purchase. You can still see the archived version of the page here.

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