May 20, 2014. That’s the date, recently announced, on which Nintendo will be shutting down their servers for Wi-Fi on the Nintendo Wii console and Nintendo DS handheld. What this means is that all Nintendo-supported online games on both systems will no longer function online as of that May date. So with that in mind, let’s ask a few questions about what you, as an owner of one of these gaming systems, should do about it.
First, what do you use your system for? Has your Wii simply turned into a Netflix machine? Do you only play your games offline, with friends and family in the same room? Do the limits of your Internet use on the systems end only as far as the Nintendo e-shop goes? Fear not! All non-gaming services on the systems will be left untouched. The Wii Shop Channel, Nintendo DSi Shop and all on-demand video services won’t be affected at all.
But what if you use the online features of Wii and DS games? It’s sad to say, your online-gaming lives will come to an end on those systems. Notable games losing online support include “Animal Crossing: Wild World” and “Super Smash Brothers Brawl.” But most notable, are the games in the “Mario Kart” and “Pokémon” franchises. Games as recently released as “Pokémon Black/White 2” (released in 2012) will no longer be allowed to take advantage of the immersive online community built into the game. While unfortunate, it’s important to note that the list of games losing support is relatively short. Half of the list is almost entirely “Pokémon” games. It’s likely most players, and probably most readers here, haven’t even made use of the Nintendo Wii or DS’s online features in years.
But if you do, you have a few options to keep gaming. First, you can continue playing all of your games offline. The Wii houses some of the best local multiplayer games in the history of gaming and the DS’s offline library helped turn it into the second-best selling gaming system ever. It’s not very hard to continue enjoying these games on the system without online connection.
Secondly is the more expensive option: buy a new console. Every major console manufacturer has released a new console within the past year-and-a-half, so you certainly have your options. You have Microsoft’s Xbox One at $500, which markets itself as an all-in-one entertainment center, and the best-selling PlayStation 4 at $400, which tends to do just about everything you’ll want it to do entertainment-wise while still slightly outpacing its competitor in game performance.
Then there is the Wii U. To say Nintendo’s successor (and it is a successor, not merely an add-on, as Nintendo has unfortunately had to reiterate a lot in the past year) has been struggling would be an understatement. While the shutdown of the DS’s online function was understandable as its successor, the 3DS, has been out since 2011, the shutdown of the Wii’s online gaming is entirely the fault of poor sales of the WiiU. Their goal? To get owners of the Wii to trade it in for the shinier, new console.
And perhaps many of you should. Unless you’re afraid of not being able to play old GameCube games like you can on the Wii, there’s no fear about not being able to play your Wii games if you upgrade. The Wii U is the only new system on the market that is backwards compatible, (the PS4 doesn’t play PS3 games and the Xbox One doesn’t play Xbox 360 games) meaning you can continue playing your Wii games on the Wii U — though still only offline, unfortunately. The system is also $100 less than the PS4 and $200 less than the Xbox One. Both of these assets are the new system’s greatest selling points.
The most decisive of its selling points though, is the new controller. The tablet-like device is surprisingly comfortable to use and allows for browsing that I would argue is a lot smoother and intuitive than the hands-free control of the Xbox One. But it also allows for something no other console has been able to do effectively — Off-screen play.
Few gamers seem to understand the value of this feature of the tablet controller, as you can play the entirety of some games on the controller. Someone’s watching TV? No need to bother them. Don’t feel like turning the TV on to play? You don’t have to. I should note that the tablet controller can also act as a universal remote for your TV, something I’ve used to great extent.
All of these features and selling points, I would argue, make the Wii U the best system to have if you live with others, especially families. If you don’t play games but others do, Netflix, Hulu Plus and a variety of other apps are all available for use on the system. The only downside is that there aren’t that many games available at the moment. Third-party developers have been running away from the Wii U recently — unwilling to try to develop for the unusual controller. That being said, if the only games you play for Wii are Nintendo-made (“Mario Kart,” “Super Smash Bros.,” etc.) then you don’t really have much to worry about. “Mario Kart 8” comes out at the end of May and “Super Smash Bros” later this year.
As for DS owners, if you haven’t bought a 3DS at this point, I don’t have much to say. This past year, it was the best-selling gaming system overall and saw the release of some of the best games I’ve ever seen on a single platform, spanning a plethora of genres. Even if you don’t own a DS, consider picking one up. Its game library far outclasses any other handheld system or mobile device, and the 3D effects, while not something you’ll want to have on all the time, is a great party trick and actually impressive when turned on in games such as 2013’s “The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.”
But then again, perhaps you don’t need to buy another system? If you’re not all that interested in the games, you can always just get an Apple TV, Roku or other device for the streaming services and other apps. If you have children who don’t really know the difference between Mario and Angry Birds (those of whom I pray for), and you don’t already have one, you could always just get a tablet or smart phone to play iOS or Android games.
It’s safe to say there are a lot of options if you’re affected by the Nintendo DS and Wii’s online gaming shutdown. If you’re like me, you’re liable to just keep playing the system. I still haven’t beaten “Super Mario Galaxy 2” or “Donkey Kong Country Returns” (both highly recommended), and I never get enough of destroying my friends in “Mario Kart Wii” or “Super Smash Brothers Brawl.” So whatever your situation, all I really need to say is “game on.”