More and more these days, people are ditching physical copies for digital, and it isn’t hard to see why. You can pre-load a game and play it right at midnight without having to wait in any launch lines. No more clutter on your shelves. You don’t have to worry about losing a disc, or having someone steal it from you. There’s cons, of course, such as the inability to sell or trade digital products, but there’s an even bigger reason which most people shrug off with indifference: You may not own said product for as long as you’d like.
No, really. Tell people that their purchase is only good for as long as the service provider allows, and they’ll laugh, saying, “Come on, bro. It’s 2017. It costs companies next to nothing to share this stuff on their servers. If you ever need to download your games again, it won’t be a problem.”
Nintendo Wii owners probably have something to say about that.
At the end of September, Nintendo made a statement:
“Dear Nintendo fans,
On January 30, 2019, we plan to close the Wii Shop Channel, which has been available on Wii systems since December 2006. We sincerely thank our loyal customers for their support. You can still ad Wii Points until March 26, 2018, and purchase content on the Wii Shop Channel until January 30, 2019. In the future, we will be closing all services related to the Wii Shop Channel, including redownloading purchased WiiWare, Virtual Console titles, and Wii Channel, as well as Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from Wii to the Wii U system.
If you have Wii Points to spend, content you want to re-download, or content you’d like to transfer from a Wii system to a Wii-U system, we recommend you do so while the services are still available.
Thank you for supporting the Wii Shop Channel and for being such great fans of Nintendo.”
This presents a multitude of problems.
Nintendo may be giving people adequate notice, but that’s the only kudos they get in regards to this announcement. Problems ahoy!
The Wii may be 11 years old at this point, but people can still access content on the Wii Shop Channel on their Wii-U. This may seem like a non-point, but the Wii had over 200 classic games that never made their way to the Wii-U shop. We’re talking Bonk’s Adventure, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Chrono Trigger, Commando, Double Dribble, Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, Mega Turrican, Super Turrican, and many, many more. So if you have no interest in the retro game market or emulating old-school games, a lot of these will be disappearing.
So, why not buy what you’d like in the next year and be done with it?
Well, hard drives don’t last forever. Nintendo makes products which last for a long time, but if you’ve got a Wii that’s already pushing a decade, it’d be risky to buy stuff now just so it could go belly up in a couple of years. And, that’s really the bottom line here: You could have invested hundreds, or even thousands of dollars through the Wii Shop Channel, and it won’t matter. If that little storage disc inside the system breaks down, it’s all gone.
We could just say, “Well, that’s just a very Nintendo-like thing to do. We’re not surprised. But Sony and Microsoft will never…”
But we don’t know that for certain, do we?
With the PS4 offering zilch in the way of backwards compatibility, I think it’d be great if they kept the PS3 servers alive indefinitely… or, at least, enough to satisfy whatever the demand is. I doubt that’ll be the case, though. One day they’ll want to reallocate those resources. Microsoft, on the other hand, are doing that whole backwards compatible thing, so they’ll probably keep the Xbox 360 economy kicking for some time. But make no mistake about it, folks. The very moment these companies realize they’re spending more money to host these servers than they’d prefer, they’re going to do something about it. I’m not saying this because ‘evil companies are evil’, but because that’s business. When the numbers don’t line up, adjustments will be made.
So, will access to these servers be available 20 years from now?
“Who cares about what happens in 20 years!”
Well, I’m 35, and 20 years ago I was probably playing Super Mario 64… and I still play that game whenever I get the chance. If you’re in your teens or even your 20’s, trust me: Time sneaks up on you faster than you think it will.
Ask yourself this: Is the convenience that a digital library brings worth an inherently shorter lifespan?
For some, the answer may be yes. There’s a lot of people who trade up and never look back. Still, I find it hard to believe that people are fine with spending $60 for a game they won’t have access to indefinitely.
This is something people need to talk about. It needs to become one of the big conversations online. Again, I know it’s easy to wave this off as ‘Nintendo being Nintendo’, but if they’re able to do this without much backlash, it sends a message to Sony and Microsoft that they should have no problem doing the same. If you’re vying for a digital future, do whatever you can to ensure that your library doesn’t eventually disappear!