Skip to main content

Nintendo is shutting down the Wii Shop after more than a decade

The Nintendo Wii stands tall.
The Nintendo Wii was revolutionary not just because of its motion controls, but also because of its Wii Shop — a digital storefront where users could purchase digital Wii games as well as retro titles through the Virtual Console. But all good things must come to an end, and for the Wii Shop, that end is quickly approaching. The service will limit its services in early 2018, with a full shutdown coming the following year.

Beginning on March 26, 2018, Wii Shop users will no longer be able to add currency to their account, meaning that if you haven’t done so before that date, you won’t be able to buy anything ever again.

On January 31, 2019, you’ll no longer be able to buy anything from the Wii Shop regardless of your point balance. This includes WiiWare games, Virtual Console games, and even “Wii Channels.” Netflix is one of those channels, so make sure you have it on your console if you ever want to use it for streaming. At a later date in 2019, users will no longer be able to download anything they had previously purchased, as well.

For Wii U owners you’re also going to want to transfer any purchased Wii Shop software from your Wii to your Wii U, as well. The Wii U Transfer Tool will no longer be supported, meaning that any games you have on your Wii will have to stay on your Wii.

The news comes just after the launch of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: SNES Classic Edition, which features a number of games currently available on the Wii Shop’s Virtual Console. These include Contra III: The Alien Wars, Super Castlevania IV, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Final Fantasy III. Star Fox 2, which was originally canceled before its release in 1995, is also included.

Curiously, the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a Virtual Console service, with only a limited number of classic games getting direct ports. Nintendo’s online subscription service kicks off in 2018 and will featured a library of NES and SNES games for players to use for an unlimited amount of time, but they won’t be able to purchase them outright if they decide to cancel the service.

Editors' Recommendations

Gabe Gurwin
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Gabe Gurwin has been playing games since 1997, beginning with the N64 and the Super Nintendo. He began his journalism career…
Nintendo’s eShop closures are a necessary, but messy move
A Nintendo Wii U gamepad flat on a table.

Nintendo last week announced its intentions to shut down the Wii U and 3DS eShops, the systems' digital storefronts, in March 2023. This decision was disappointing for hardcore fans who stuck with Nintendo during that rocky era and extremely worrying as many of the games available on the platforms won't be preserved.
More significant Wii U games and a handful of 3DS titles were ported to Switch, but many titles are still stuck on those systems and can’t be ported. Once the digital storefront shutdowns, digital-only titles will be gone forever, and physical copies of these titles will get more expensive and harder to experience. Fans and game preservationists have not been pleased by this decision, with the Video Game History Foundation giving the most candid response.
Following this announcement, Digital Trends spoke to an industry analyst and game preservationists to get a better idea of what exactly caused Nintendo to shut down these stores and to learn how it could do a better job at preserving its legacy.
Why is Nintendo shutting down the 3DS and Wii eShops?
Officially, Nintendo’s FAQ on the eShop closures says “this is part of the natural life cycle for any product line as it becomes less used by consumers over time." The answer doesn’t get into specifics and might confuse those still playing games on the system or fans of games only available on Wii U or 3DS. Omdia Principal Analyst Matthew Bailey explains Nintendo’s user base argument in more detail, highlighting the massive gap between the number of people playing the Switch as opposed to the Wii U.
“While Omdia expects the number of Switch consoles in active use to exceed 90 million on a global basis this year, the Wii U’s global active installed base will drop under one million in 2022,” he explains. “Even when you include the more enduring 3DS family of consoles into the equation, the Switch still comfortably accounts for over 90% of Nintendo’s total active console install base.”
If one is going off just the numbers, it’s sensible that Nintendo would want to focus on the majority of its players. Bailey admits that “Switch users are already reaping the benefits of Nintendo’s singular first-party development focus on one platform.” Still, one might argue that Nintendo should just let the eShops remain up even if it isn’t actively updating or maintaining them.

Unfortunately, Nintendo doesn’t see that as possible due to cost and security issues. Game Over Thrity, a Twitter user with over 20 years of experience working on IT projects and infrastructure, shed some light on what might have influenced Nintendo’s decision-making in a thread.
“As these systems age, they require patches, security, special contracts, updates, and personnel that know how they were built (and maintained),” his Twitter thread explains. “As time goes on, there are security holes, servers, code, infrastructure, etc., that can’t be brought up to modern standards. It becomes a constant struggle between maintaining legacy systems, paying people to do so, and trying to keep up with global regulations. It’s not cheap by any means. They can’t just ‘leave the lights on’ and stop supporting them. What if someone hacked the payment processor?”
With every passing year, the Wii U and 3DS eShops likely became more expensive to maintain and an increased security risk for the video game publisher. Instead of investing the time and resources into pleasing a smaller amount of players, the easier option is to turn everything off entirely. While he isn’t affiliated with Nintendo, Game Over Thirty’s assessment aligns with what we’ve heard from Nintendo and Omdia.
"The Wii U’s global active installed base will drop under one million in 2022."

Read more
Nintendo is ending Wii U and 3DS eShop service
Photos of the 3DS eShops

Nintendo has announced the end of its eShop service for the Wii U console and 3DS handheld. The eShop will stay live on those devices until late March 2023, after which players will no longer be able to purchase games or download eShop apps and services for those devices.

After the closure, players will still be able to redownload games and DLC that they already own, use online play, and download software updates.

Read more
Nintendo Switch Sports is more of a gamble than it seems
A Mii hits a tennis ball in Nintendo Switch Sports.

For February’s Nintendo Direct, I watched the show while chatting on Discord with Digital Trends’ gaming writers. Of all the new games announced, there was one in particular that elicited gleeful squeals from the crowd: Nintendo Switch Sports.

Nintendo Switch Sports – Announcement Trailer – Nintendo Switch

Read more