Nintendo announced earlier this week that it will be shutting down the servers responsible for hosting all Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS multiplayer services. The date for this shutdown is May 20, 2014 worldwide and will affect matchmaking, leaderboards, add-on content, user content and online play will no longer be available. Even popular games such as Pokemon Black and White, Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers Brawl are not exempt from the shutdown. The move will also phase out another few channels on the Nintendo Wii such as Wii Speak. A few third party channels will continue to weather the migration, notably video streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube will remain functional. Nintendo has also kept the web browsers and the shops open.
This is hugely disappointing because of the blanket shutdown. I certainly understand the need to retire servers as they become unused, but in the list there are a number of games that are not all that old and still make heavy use of the online servers. Nintendo has posted a list of titles affected on their website. It would have been nice to see a more gradual phasing out of the servers, but understandably, this must be a cost cutting measure from Nintendo.
Nintendo has been in and out of the headlines as of recent weeks. The Nintendo WiiU has not moved many consoles and the success of the Sony Playstation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One highlight their failure. Even though the Nintendo 3DS is moving many units and fast becoming yet another runaway success, it doesn’t seem to be enough. As a result, Nintendo’s executives took a pay cut to reduce costs, redoubled their efforts on both systems and evidently, started cutting costs elsewhere.
I sympathize with Nintendo, they are being pressured by investors. 3 days ago, a large shareholder of Nintendo urged them to tap into the mobile gaming market and start making their games available on smartphones. This sentiment is coming from not only Seth Fischer, a hedge fund manager with many shares of Nintendo, it is also came from shareholders years ago. I can see that a shift to mobile gaming would give Nintendo a short term edge as they squeeze the last dollars out of the original Pokemon Red and Blue and Super Mario series, but I can’t see it as a successful long term strategy without something much more radical (Nintendo smartphone anyone?). Nintendo simply won’t have a hardware division at that point and will potentially lose a very profitable product line. They will need to compete in a market that is used to paying $0.99 per game and expected to deliver the same quality for a drastically reduced price. Sure, volume can drive greater profits in the short term, but the Nintendo brand starts losing value quickly. Part of me wonders if these shareholders have considered this, and the other part believes they are simply looking for a quick exit as soon as the short term profits balloon.
I’m glad that the executives at Nintendo have held firm against these calls for mobile gaming. They’ve acquiesced and mentioned that demos may be available on smartphones, but games will still be exclusive to Nintendo consoles. I began this articles bemoaning the fact that the Wii and DS services are no longer provided, and while I remain sore about that fact, I can honestly say, if this is what it takes to keep Nintendo afloat and stick to their goal of producing quality games, then so be it. I’m clutching onto my Nintendo 3DS and hoping for another year of great releases.