On March 27th, 2023, the Nintendo eShop for 3DS will close down after twelve faithful years of service. After releasing via an update in June 2011, users have been able to download games, apps and demos to their portable device—and for a long time, you could even watch Netflix and YouTube on your 3DS!
With over seventy five million hardware sales, the 3DS family—including the larger XL variant, along with the 2DS and its successor, the fabulously named New Nintendo 2DS XL—has been a stalwart favorite among gamers, despite never reaching the heights of the original DS or Game Boy Advance.
Now, in just a few days, Nintendo will be ending support for the 3DS eShop, after a slow process of killing off essential services (such as adding funds to your account) over the past two years.
On March 27th, the 3DS and Wii U eShop will no longer allow the purchase of paid (or free) content, only permitting downloads of previously purchased products. Today on Honey’s Anime, we’re going to tell you why you should care—and why the eShop’s closure should have you worried.
Are Your Pokémon On Bill’s PC?
A central problem with the eShop’s closure involves the concept of “digital preservation”—essentially, the idea that, as technology adapts and evolves over time, we’re losing access to content that was produced years ago. Future generations will be left with the knowledge that “something” existed, but no ability to access it thanks to significant differences in hardware, or due to rights holders not re-releasing on newer platforms.
If this doesn’t sound too big an issue, consider this simple thought experiment.
A book published in the early 1900’s, provided it has been stored in decent condition, is still readable today—the same as classical artwork painted centuries ago! For example, you might have an early edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings sitting in your family home, still perfectly readable.
However, if you bought Peter Jackson’s blockbuster adaptation The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002, you might have grabbed the VHS copy. Take a look around your home, and see if you can find a VHS player! You might be reading this article on your MacBook, or an Android smartphone; neither of which even have a DVD player—so if you bought the DVD version instead, you’re also out of luck.
Since movie companies stand to profit from re-releases, you can still see Elijah Wood take up the One Ring on Blu-Ray, or rent a copy through iTunes or Amazon Prime. But other digital products aren’t quite so lucky—and video games are on the top of the list.
That copy of Pokémon Yellow you owned in ’99? It’s not going to fit into your Nintendo Switch, and the last device that could still play a Game Boy or Game Boy Color game was the Game Boy Advance. “But that’s okay,” we hear you say. “Nintendo has a Virtual Console on the 3DS!”
Yes, it does—until March 27th, that is.
Now You’re Just a Game That I Used To Know
Nintendo has been reluctant to replicate popular software from the 3DS era on the Nintendo Switch. Notably, gamers have been confused and annoyed at Nintendo’s lethargic approach to making older titles available via the paid subscription to Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
In February 2023, Nintendo announced that select Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games would be available to play on your Switch, with more rolling out in the future. We’re certainly thrilled to see Link back in action manipulating the weather in Oracle of Seasons, or testing our mettle against Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade for Game Boy Advance.
Notably missing from this lineup, however, is one of the biggest franchises to be affected by the 3DS eShop closure—Pokémon. From the classic Pokémon Red and Blue, to the relaxing puzzles of Pokémon Picross, all these games will become permanently unavailable from March 27th.
If you didn’t buy them already, you won’t be able to play them again—perhaps ever.
The Illusion of Ownership
Nintendo’s ‘solution’ to this problem—if we can generously call it that—is the aforementioned Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
Unfortunately, this service is a cloud-based subscription—a solution that’s far worse for digital preservation than the 3DS’s Virtual Console.
A subscription service means that Nintendo can alter the library anytime they like, without warning. Just like Netflix or HBO Max taking down your favorite TV shows, using subscription services means you don’t “own” the content you’re consuming. Even if you “purchase” a digital product via an online store, you only own a “license” that can (surprise!) be revoked without much, if any, compensation.
Digital preservation groups, such as the Digital Preservation Coalition, have been warning about the dangers of download-only and subscription-only services for many years now. At least when you download software, it’s stored somewhere on your physical storage medium—but streaming services can remove entire products overnight.
So, what can we do about the 3DS and Wii U eShop’s closure?
What Is a Company to a Consumer?
In July 2021, Sony attempted to retire the PSP Store after a decade of operation.
Consumers made a huge storm online, and just weeks after the announcement, Sony altered their plan, claiming that they had “made the wrong decision.”
Instead, Sony allowed PSP games to be purchased on PS3 and PS Vita—where they can still be bought at the time of this article’s publication. Clearly, customers’ voices do matter—and if Sony can reverse course, then Nintendo can, too.
Adding insult to injury in this whole situation, the 2DS LL is still selling brand-new, packaged units in Japan.
Famitsu, Japan’s premiere gaming magazine, provides weekly software and hardware sales. On the week ending 12th of March, before this article was written, Famitsu reported that the New 2DS LL (including 2DS) had sold an additional 97 units, for a total lifetime sales figure of 1,190,855.
Ninety-seven new owners who, in just another week, won’t be able to buy any software for their brand-new 2DS. If they’re lucky, they’ll find second-hand 3DS games for sale online—but purchasing old games at a markup only puts money in the hands of other gamers.
Publishers and developers won’t see a dime of that money—but online software sales would still generate all-important revenue and royalties for the original creators. The decision to shut down the online store not only hurts consumers, but it hurts developers, too.
So if you don’t want to see a decade of digital content vanish without a replacement, then submit complaints online and let Nintendo know exactly what your dollar is worth!
Whether you’re concerned about preserving content for future generations, or you’ve just bought a 2DS and want to relive some of the best games made in the past decade, the 3DS eShop’s closure on March 27th represents a huge blow to the gaming industry.
If more companies continue down this road, we risk seeing a future where our hard-earned dollars are an ephemeral concept that lines the pockets of executives, and leaves us consumers high and dry.
How do you feel about the 3DS eShop’s closure? Let us know your thoughts down below, and as always, thanks for reading!