Nintendo Begins Phasing Out Wii Virtual Console, Making Classic Games Inaccessible

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Nintendo launched the Wii in 2006, and with it came the virtual console. Part of the Wii Shop Channel, the virtual console offered a way to enjoy the games of yesteryear, but that era is coming to a close. Nintendo will begin the next phase of shutting down the Wii virtual console today. You can no longer buy content from the store, and any unspent Wii Points are now useless. That means some of Nintendo’s classic games are now unavailable on any modern platform, and this comes as the company intensifies its crackdown on ROM sites.

After more than 12 years, it’s understandable that Nintendo would want to sunset the Wii Shop Channel. After all, the Wii is now two generations out of date. The company also gave everyone warning last year that it planned to kill the feature, giving gamers time to spend their points. For the time being, you can still download the classic titles purchased in the virtual console. However, those titles will no longer work at some unannounced future date, and there’s no way to back them up.

You can still access a virtual console on the newer Wii U, but there’s an unfortunate trend here. While the Wii virtual console features nearly 400 titles, the Wii U has 140 fewer. So, there are a lot of games for older systems that you can’t purchase at all right now. The Wii U won’t last forever, either. When it’s gone, the selection of classic games is even thinner. The Switch only supports about 30 classic games, all of which are locked behind the subscription Switch Online service. Nintendo has promised to add more, but it’s clearly not a priority. 

We’ve seen similar shutdowns over the years — when the bulk of consumers move away from older services, companies can shut off access to purchased content to save money. There aren’t enough people complaining to make a difference. Although, video game archivists point out some of these games may never be available for purchase again. Many young game designers take inspiration from old games, but what if there are fewer old games to play?

Gamers may increasingly turn to piracy to play retro games as their legal options dwindle. While Nintendo successfully shuttered the largest ROM sites on the internet, it’s not exactly hard to download classic Nintendo games. The company is certainly within its rights to go after these sites, but piracy isn’t going away. Still, it puts those who want to play by the rules in a difficult spot.

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