The video game industry is good at many things, but preservation is not one of them. Peripherals and controllers are built to be affordable, not to last. Old games are licensed for digital release, but the vagaries of digital licensing don’t guarantee the game’s availability forever, negating any ownership the player thought they had. The end of the current console cycle is introducing a new element to the preservation mix: The death of what consoles can do. Someone who plugs in a Super Nintendo can still have the same general experience that they had in 1993, but the Wii owners of 2033 won’t be able to say the same.
Nintendo issued a statement in the US, Europe, and Japan on Friday confirming that a number of online services for the Nintendo Wii will stop working on Jun. 28. Topping the list are a number of the Channels that figured so promptly into Nintendo’s early, awkward vision of what an Internet-connected console would be: The Forecast Channel, News Channel, and promotional Nintendo Channel will all go off the air. Proto-Miiverse social features like the Check Mii Out and Everybody Votes Channels will also be taken offline.
The Wii Shop Channel for buying Virtual Console and WiiWare games will remain open for the time being, but their days are certainly numbered.
These features were inevitably going to die. Nintendo’s online infrastructure was so haphazardly conceived when the Wii came out in 2006 that it wasn’t even able to integrate the Wii Shop with the Wii U eShop when that console released in 2012. There are more significant changes than those entertainments, though.
As of Jun. 28, Wii owners will no longer be able to exchange Mii characters and messages via the Wii Message Board or Mii Channel in the game. Two of the fundamental social features of the console will be rendered inert, changing the shape of Nintendo’s famous console.
Shutting down these features won’t stop the nostalgic players of the future from slapping together new Mii characters and playing some Wii Sports, though. They can even do those things right on the Wii U. These changes are representative of what’s going to happen to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii over the coming years as well. Past consoles didn’t truly die, companies just stopped making them and selling them. These machines, defined as they are by online services, will actually die, at least in part.