Nintendo announced on Tuesday that they will be closing support for the Wii U and 3DS eShops in late March 2023. The shuttering of these online stores puts a time limit on the purchase of digital games on both the Wii U and 3DS family of systems.
Many fans are upset, as the closure of these eShops means many demos, digital only games, and emulations will vanish in just over a year, making many already difficult to own games even more impossible to find through legal means.
Although the closing seems far away in March 2023, Nintendo has impediments in place to make the experience much more complicated than it already is. On May 23, players will be unable to add funds via credit card into both eShops, making eShop gift cards the only way to purchase games. That’s only for a short while though, as on Aug 29, gift cards will stop being accepted as well.
At least a clever work around is in place, as if you link your Wii U/3DS eShop account with your Switch eShop account, you can still add funds as normal.
The Wii U and 3DS eShops are home to many games that did not see a physical release. The largest example of this would be the digital-only Fire Emblem Fates: Revelations, the complimentary third path between Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright and Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest. Even more importantly, fans will also lose access to the Game Boy Advance Virtual Console, the only official place to digitally purchase and emulate many elusive games.
Of course, the modern Nintendo Online products allow for Nintendo Switch owners to play a handful of NES, SNES, Nintendo 64 and Sega Genesis games, but both the quantity and quality pales in comparison to the previous generations eShops.
Nintendo has a history of making their earlier games hard to find through official means, forcing fans to seek unofficial emulators to play. The Japanese games giant is also notoriously anti-emulation, even recently celebrating the indictment of a Canadian hacker.
The move to close digital storefronts has long been criticized by fans; Sony previously reversed their decision to close the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita storefronts in April 2021 after a very negative fan response. For better or worse, Nintendo is made of stronger stuff, as their 2019 closure of the Wii Shop Channel and 2021 ceasing of support for Super Mario Maker on Wii U were not affected by hordes of upset fans.