Nintendo has announced a worldwide termination of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection online service, effective May 20. This egregiously affects around 400 Wii and DS games with online play or leaderboards. They have assured that the Wii Shop Channel, DSi Shop Channel, video streaming apps, and Internet Browsers on those platforms will not be affected. And, of course, Wii U and 3DS online play will be unaffected as well.
Nintendo also released this peace meal statement on the matter, a backwards “thank you” to fans:
We at Nintendo sincerely thank our fans for their continued support of our company’s legacy systems. Your enthusiasm for games made for these systems speaks to their longevity, and the passion of Nintendo fans.
The Wi-Fi Connection began with Mario Kart DS on November 14, 2005. There were many notable games with online modes on Nintendo platforms to boot. The Pokemon RPGs used online matchmaking, voice chat, and the Global Trade Station for worldwide trading. Metroid Prime Hunters was a mulitplayer-focused FPS. And on Wii, Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros Brawl carried a torch for the platform, whether it was really popular like the former or barely ran like the latter. To kill the service this year means it doesn’t even get a full 10 years. It’s like a Greek tragedy.
This is an all too-soon move on Nintendo’s part. Perhaps the engagement on these online servers hasn’t been high lately, but there are far more DS and Wii systems, and copies of Mario Kart Wii, out there than there are 3DS’s and Wii Us. Heck, Mario Kart Wii was bundled with the Wii mini last year, so who’s stopping those players from using those copies on an online-ready Wii. The timing on this is none too coincidental: ten days before the release of Mario Kart 8 on Wii U. The message is clear: Nintendo wants you to buy and play what’s coming out, not what’s been out (Mario Kart Wii). And to run those servers with little justifiable activity can’t be cheap, so Nintendo may be switching those servers over to host newer online games.
Companies like Sony and Microsoft, and especially EA, kill online servers all the time, but for Nintendo, a company built on longevity and long-lasting value, to do it has a certain sadness. It was feasible that these older games would last online forever. Losing their online functionality will either hurt a game’s feature set, or cripple it altogether. It’s just another part of the difficulty of game preservation. If anything, now is the time to cram in all the online matches in MK Wii you want, before it becomes impossible.
The full list of games affected can be found here.