Goodbye Wii Shop Channel. You will be missed.
Earlier today, January 30, 2019, the Wii Shop Channel shut down for good. The Wii Shop Channel has been on life support for a while, with the ability to add Wii points, the Shop’s form of currency, being disabled last March, but today, Nintendo finally pulled the plug on the dying service. Purchases can no longer be made with existing Wii points, games can no longer be downloaded, and the channel can no longer be accessed.
Launching shortly after the Wii in 2006, the Wii Shop Channel was a pioneer in the digital distribution market. With the advent of online storefronts like the Wii Shop Channel, PlayStation Store, and Xbox Live Marketplace, people no longer had to leave their homes to buy video games. Not only that, but older, harder to find games that would run for upwards of a hundred dollars or more were now widely available for a low price, no original hardware needed. If you wanted to play Castlevania Dracula X, you could! It truly was the best of times.
The Wii Shop Channel also set a fantastic example for game preservation. Nowadays, if you’re looking to legally play Paper Mario, you’ll have to hook up your Wii U that’s been gathering dust since the Switch launched. And while that works now, the Wii U eShop will shut down eventually, and then I’ll have to write a “Saying Goodbye to the Wii U eShop” article, you won’t be able to play Paper Mario, and nobody will be happy.
Nintendo seems to have forgotten they used to the example when it came to classic game availability. The Wii Shop Channel not only had NES, SNES, N64, and other Nintendo console lineups readily available, but also NeoGeo, Genesis, and even TurboGrafx games. Compare that to the Switch, which only has about 30 NES games only available through a subscription.
Original content was also a centerpiece of the Wii Shop Channel. WiiWare allowed for smaller-budget experimental titles to exist alongside mainstream AAA games. Konami’s Rebirth series, Dr. Mario Online Rx, Pokemon Rumble, My Pokemon Ranch, all of these were only possibly because of WiiWare. Sadly, these WiiWare games were only available on the Wii Shop Channel, so now they’re no longer available.
The Wii Shop Channel, along with its contemporary counterparts, set a standard in digital distribution that led to the meteoric rise of digital video game sales. Its influence can be seen throughout the industry today. Unfortunately, its focus on making older games widely available hasn’t lived on in its successors or with any of its competitors, but Microsoft’s recent push for backwards compatibility is starting to bring that topic back into relevancy. Also, WiiWare helped pioneer the independent development scene, and today indie games are in the spotlight year-round.The Wii Shop Channel was an amazing service, and we’re sad to see it go.
At least we’ll always have the music.