To be fair and perfectly honest “RIP” might be overstating it a bit. The Wii Shop itself will still be accessible until January 31, 2019. As a practical matter though it went on life support on March 26th with no chance of ever being resurrected, and if this is all a bit confusing to you, I’ll be more than happy to explain.
Nintendo fans all knew this day was coming. The launch of the Nintendo Switch made the closure of the Wii Shop inevitable. The Nintendo Wii was a console already two generations gone by, but one that had a very large install base of over 100 million units sold. It was the first home console I bought with wi-fi built in – even my launch day PS3 had to use an external wi-fi adapter and my Xbox 360 still has a proprietary Microsoft adapter plugged into the back of it to access my internet. No the Wii was made to be “wireless everything” – a wireless remote you point at the TV to play games, then turn sideways to play old school games, then plug accessories into to play modern games, then point back at the TV when you want to download MORE games online. The purchase of games was facilitated through Wii points, which cost $1 for 100 points (plus tax), and you could buy them online via credit card or pay cash for a card with a scratch off code to redeem online once you got home.
This service was wildly successful for Nintendo much like the Wii console itself, and brought many new gamers into the concept of “retro” for the first time ever, via the ability to play games from the 8-bit NES, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, NEC TurboGrafx-16, and many more via the virtual console portion of the Wii Shop. It also sported original never seen before games exclusively available for download that were not sold at retail stores – games like “Mega Man 9” and “Castlevania Rebirth” and “LostWinds” among many others. All of this was to be celebrated, purchased, and enjoyed – but all good things must come to an end. Since sales of Nintendo Switch have exceeded even Nintendo’s wildest expectations and set the console on a path to Wii like levels of consumer adoption, it’s time to put the old online shop out to pasture. Even though the plug won’t technically be pulled on life support until next January, Nintendo doesn’t want to run the service indefinitely, so they are winnowing away the customers still left by no longer letting you buy or add those aforementioned Wii points to your account. If you have any left you can still spend them, but when they’re gone, that’s it. You can stare through the window glass at the cookies and cakes inside, but you’ll never be able to buy them.
I’m torn because like so many other people, I moved on from the Wii to bigger and better things like the Switch and the PS4, but because the Wii Shop put a legal purchasable form of emulation on the market for the first time ever it holds a fond place in my retro beating heart. So I did what I had to do and took one last spin around the store, picking up obscurities from Japan never released in the U.S. like “Pulseman” for Genesis and “Ufouria” for NES. Last weekend was now or never and I chose NOW.
I’m okay with knowing I can’t shop in the store ever again since I got my fix one last time, and I hope that those of you who own a Nintendo Wii (that is any model other than Wii Mini, which removed wi-fi altogether) knew about this coming and did the same. If not spend your remaining points on whatever you still can if you have any, and if not just know that 12 years is an eternity in the digital world. Entire websites backed by multi-million dollar IPOs have come and gone in less than 1/10th of that time span. Several generations of consoles have usurped what we had in the 2000’s, and with the 2010’s nearing the end it’s amazing that Wii Shop actually held on this long. Good bye old friend. Let’s let Drake sing a few words to send you on your way. “You used to call me on your cell phone…”