Nintendo’s 3DS and Wii U store closures hurt game preservation and trust
The legacy of nintendo can’t be overstated in the world of video games, but its recent decision to shut down the 3DS and Wii U eShops (without providing means to access Virtual Console content) shows that this legacy is not in safe hands. . These closures are more than just an inevitability of progress. The management of the closures is a major blow to the preservation of the game and an equally important blow to the confidence of all players making digital purchases in the current Nintendo Switch ecosystem. Virtual Console’s sizable library of games from nine different consoles will no longer be available to gamers, removing options to legally purchase classic titles on near-mainstream hardware. Nintendo’s indifferent stance on its obligation to make its own catalog available is also concerning, and the lack of backwards compatibility between generations devalues any purchase made for the Switch.
Not so long ago, Nintendo maintained a series of consumer-friendly business decisions and maintained the rich history of its older console libraries. The Wii U may not have hooked consumers up, but it wasn’t for lack of user-friendly features that made the Wii U a higher value than the Switch. The Wii U was backwards compatible with original Wii games and controllers, as are current Xbox Series X/S consoles for Xbox One games and peripherals. It also featured the most robust Virtual Console selection of any console to date, offering games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Super NES, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, as well as TurboGrafx-16 from Hudson Soft. The competing handheld console, the 3DS, offered similar functionality, with DS backwards compatibility and a Virtual Console that included titles from the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, NES, Super NES, and Game Gear. from Sega.
Following the commercial failure of the Wii U, Nintendo ended its nearly 30-year history of offering a handheld console alongside a dedicated home console with the Switch, a hybrid that merged the two Nintendo product lines in one piece of hardware. Switch-like hybrid designs are likely Nintendo’s future, but the new era comes at a cost. The Switch ended Nintendo’s streak of maintaining previous-generation backwards compatibility that was present in every one of its handheld consoles after the original Game Boy and every home console after the GameCube. The switch to a cartridge system has streamlined the lack of compatibility with Wii U discs, and the 3DS’ unique screen format could perhaps justify omitting compatibility from this system. The fact that Virtual Console titles from the Wii U and 3DS weren’t supported by the Switch has no justification, however, and with the closure of those systems’ digital storefronts, gamers will be cut off from important chapters in the history of the game.
Switch Online is not an adequate replacement for Virtual Console support
As reported by Kotaku, when Nintendo originally announced the planned closure of the Wii U and 3DS storefronts, the FAQ included an entry that acknowledged the damage done to game preservation and attempted to put a positive spin on the closure. The entry said:
“(Question) Once it is no longer possible to purchase software from the Nintendo eShop on Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, many classic games for previous platforms will cease to be available for purchase. anywhere. Are you going to make classic games available to own in another way? If not, then why? Doesn’t Nintendo have an obligation to preserve its classic games by continually making them available for purchase?“
“(Answer) In our Nintendo Switch Online subscription plans, over 130 classic games are currently available in growing libraries for various legacy systems. Games are often enriched with new features such as online play. We believe this is an effective way to make classic content easily accessible to a wide range of players. In these libraries, new and long-time gamers can not only find games they remember or have heard of, but also other fun games they might not have thought to look up otherwise. We currently have no plans to offer classic content in any other way.
Nintendo later removed this entry from the Shutdown FAQ, likely due to the poor reception of its attempt to promote Switch Online as a Virtual Console successor. The subscription game library included with the Switch Online service pales in comparison to the over 300 games that are, for now, available through the Wii U Virtual Console selection. will soon expand to include Game Boy games, and more legacy consoles are likely planned for the future. Given that the Switch is clearly capable of emulating older consoles, the decision not to honor previous generation Virtual Console purchases through backwards compatibility is a slap in the face for Nintendo fans.
Nintendo is not the only company to take similar anti-consumer measures. While the PlayStation 5’s backwards compatibility with PS4 games is among its best features, the PS4 previously erred in not supporting PS1 and PS2 classics owned by digital owners purchased through PS3 online stores or Vita. Xbox Series X/S support for digitally purchased Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games stands out as the most user-friendly in today’s console market, helping game preservation by bringing these games back to the generation previous available for purchase on current hardware. It also engenders player trust, which Nintendo has lost by dealing with the closure of its own online store.
The loss of Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console compatibility is also a loss of trust
Many gamers debate the pros and cons of physical video game purchases versus digital purchases. There is a degree of trust required for digital purchases, certainly. DRM-free games sold through GOG are at one end of the spectrum, and the storefront recently removed a Hitman title for violating GOG’s DRM-free rules. PC games sold through storefronts like GOG, Epic, and Steam are indifferent to “generations,” an advantage that consoles don’t have. Buying a digital game within a console ecosystem still offers more security than Google Stadia, a streaming service with questionable longevity. Consoles offering next-gen support for previous-gen digital purchases help bridge the trust gap, to some extent, giving console gamers a taste of the security PC gamers enjoy. .
Knowing that current-gen Xbox Series X/S consoles support previous-gen Xbox One purchases, including select Xbox 360 and system-supported original Xbox games, adds value. value to these purchases. The 76 games added to the Xbox backwards compatibility list at the end of 2021 appear to be the last, which is unfortunate, but there are good reasons to expect that games purchased from the Xbox digital ecosystem will remain playable through future hardware revisions based on this precedent. The PS5 supporting the majority of PS4 digital purchases similarly adds value to games purchased within the Sony ecosystem and helps restore the trust lost with the PS4. With the Switch, Nintendo’s “fresh start” has certainly resonated in the marketplace, and the novelty of a hybrid console is undeniable. However, the decision to cut Virtual Console support suggests that all games purchased in Nintendo’s ecosystem have no “backward compatibility” guarantee, damaging its online store’s trust and its value to consumers. players.
Nintendo is launching a new online storefront for the Switch, which promises a cleaner design and better management of its rewards program. This new storefront unfortunately comes with the dismal announcement of the closure of the Wii U and 3DS online store, as well as its tone-deaf response to game preservation and backwards compatibility. Games will be easier to find on the new Nintendo eShop, but gamers now weigh their purchases knowing that backwards compatibility and support for previous-gen purchases on next-gen hardware isn’t a priority for Nintendo. company. All games, including physical media titles, are finite in nature. Older consoles break down over time, discs scratch and cartridges degrade. No matter how durable a hardware design is, nothing lasts forever. Knowing that a digital purchase in a particular ecosystem is likely to work on the inevitable next-gen hardware adds value (and builds trust) for gamers. The shutdown of the eShop and its poor substitute in the form of Switch Online is certainly hurting game preservation and the availability of classic games, but the biggest casualty is trust. nintendo lost with his fans.
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