What discontinuation of Wii U and 3DS eShops means for the future of Nintendo

Online stores for the Wii U (L) and 3DS (R) comes to an end next year (Image via Nintendo)
Online stores for the Wii U (L) and 3DS (R) comes to an end next year (Image via Nintendo)

Nintendo recently announced that they're shutting down the online stores for Wii U and 3DS. This means that players will no longer be able to purchase content from the eShops after March 2023. This also impacts StreetPass Mii Plaza, Theme Shop, and Nintendo Badge Arcade purchases.

The Wii U was launched in 2012 but declining third-party support and poor marketing doomed it. 3DS, on the other hand, went on to become one of the better-selling Nintendo systems so far despite struggling during its 2011 launch. It has been a decade since these systems were released, so it makes sense for Nintendo to bring closure.


Nintendo cited declining userbase to discontinue the eShops

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This is entirely fair as these are legacy consoles. The developers are solely focused on the Switch and its possible future iterations.

However, legacy systems still have a few benefits over Switch. Take the Virtual Console. Users can purchase retro titles on both Wii U and 3DS. The latter had access to NES, SNES and Gameboy/Color titles. The former had all of that, plus games from additional consoles like DS and N64.

Meanwhile, on the Switch, there's no Virtual Console. Instead, users have to access the Switch Online subscription to find a curated NES/SNES/N64 catalog. Players don't just have a smaller set of games to choose from, but they also perform worse than Virtual Console. What's worse is that these games are locked behind the online membership.

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To top it off, Wii U and 3DS online are entirely free, too. The Switch Online subscription is seen as a downgrade in comparison. It is cheaper than PlayStation and Xbox, but fans have expressed discontent behind many elements like the Online Expansion Pack, which makes users pay more for a separate catalog of emulated games (i.e., N64 and Mega Drive).

Perhaps the value of the complete package will make sense in the long run. It seems to be headed that way with perks like access to DLCs for Animal Crossing and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

The 3DS and Wii U have features that the Switch does not. For example, the now-defunct Miiverse was a superb social platform for interacting with the community, including a chat system. Though discontinued, Netflix is accessible on the 3DS' glorious 240p display but is inaccessible on the Switch.

While those stores will end, the Japanese publisher has no plans to shut down Wii U and 3DS online play. Users can redownload games and DLC from their library and receive software updates. But this closure marks the end of an era. Where Nintendo takes Switch Online remains to be seen.


Disclaimer: This article reflects the opinions of the writer.