After 12 years, Nintendo has finally pulled the plug on the Wii Shop Channel, as of January 30th.
No longer will Wii users be able to spend their Wii Points on Virtual Console games and weird exclusive minigames whilst listening to ridiculously catchy music. Whilst it has found successors in the Wii U shop and the modern Nintendo Store on the Switch, it is worth remembering what made the Wii Shop Channel such a trailblazer.
Born on the 10th of December 2006, the Wii Shop Channel set itself apart from its competitors on the PS3 and Xbox 360 with its rounded, kid-friendly interface. Unlike its rivals, which used their digital storefronts as a way to sell digital versions of physical games, the Wii Shop Channel prioritised offering minigames and Wii Shop Channel-exclusive spin-offs of popular franchises. Sure, you couldn’t buy a digital version of Super Mario Galaxy, but weird side games like Pokémon Rumble that you couldn’t buy anywhere else highlighted the service’s unique qualities.
However, the crowning jewel of the Wii Shop Channel was undoubtedly the Virtual Console. Featuring a rich line-up of some of Nintendo’s best games from the NES up until the Nintendo 64, the Virtual Console was a celebration of Nintendo’s rich history. The Virtual Console offered a way for classic fans to re-experience their favourite games on Nintendo’s newest system, and allowed new fans to dive into Nintendo’s vast catalogue of classic titles.
As someone whose first Nintendo home console was a Wii, the Virtual Console provided me with an affordable way to play the Nintendo 64 Legend of Zelda titles after playing Twilight Princess. Since then, I have become a massive fan of the whole Legend of Zelda franchise as a result of revisiting the franchise’s roots.
Nowadays, it can be hard to see Nintendo as the same company that once embraced its classic titles. The company has stamped down on attempts to make their old games available on ROM sites, its classic consoles are hard to find and there are no plans bring a sort of Virtual Console to the Switch. Sure, you can still play some NES games if you subscribe to its online service, but it just isn’t the same.
Nintendo have made some steps forward with digital distribution since the Wii (such as being able to directly pay for things, instead of buying Wii Points and then using them), but the loss of the Virtual Console as we knew it is unfortunate. The trend of backwards compatibility has drifted to mini classic consoles, which are more expensive and less convenient. It’s possible that they will eventually bring a Virtual Console service to the Switch, but that doesn’t seem very likely.
Rest in peace, Wii Shop Channel. Wii will surely miss you.