Back in February, Nintendo announced plans to shut down the digital eShops on the 3DS and Wii U, two consoles that it said have “become less used by consumers over time.” After today, the first phase of that plan will go into effect, and players will no longer be able to use a credit card to add new funds to their eShop wallets.
Physical eShop gift cards, which can still be purchased at major retailers, will be redeemable until August 29. But today marks the last chance to add eShop funds directly without going through an outside retailer.
Players who add funds today (or who use funds in a linked “Nintendo Account wallet” as used on the Switch) will still be able to make purchases until “late March 2023,” Nintendo said. Purchases made before that cutoff will still be available to redownload “for the foreseeable future” as well, though demos and “free-to-start” games will no longer be downloadable after that date.
What we’re losing
The coming shutdown means Nintendo will no longer offer classic games for direct purchase as part of its long-running Virtual Console program. That includes over 300 titles on the Wii U chosen from the NES, SNES, TurboGrafx-16, N64, Game Boy Advance, and Nintendo DS libraries and nearly 200 titles on the 3DS chosen from the NES, SNES, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Gear libraries.
In a February FAQ, Nintendo noted that it offers over 130 classic games as part of a Nintendo Switch Online membership and that “we currently have no plans to offer classic content in other ways.” That answer (archived here) was scrubbed from the company’s public FAQ within 24 hours of its posting, however.
The shutdowns will also mean the end of availability for hundreds of eShop-exclusive titles that were never released on other consoles or on physical media of any type. Fans have compiled a list of over 700 3DS eShop exclusives and nearly 200 Wii U eShop exclusives that will be unavailable after that transition. Plenty of critics have also been busy compiling lists of the best eShop exclusives to check out before they’re gone for good.
Even some 3DS and Wii U games that technically saw a physical release may be hard to access cheaply after the eShop shutdowns. Secondhand prices are already shooting up for rare 3DS cartridges like Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright and Rhythm Thief, even while they’re available as relatively cheap downloads on the eShop (for now). The same goes for rare Wii U discs like Bayonetta 2 and Wii Sports Club.
Nintendo will probably see a minor uptick in revenues from these eShops ahead of their closures as players follow their FOMO and buy up digital games while they still have the chance. Video game preservation groups, meanwhile, are scrambling to make sure archival copies of these digital games will be available to researchers in the future.