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Don’t panic! You can still watch Netflix on Wii

You’ve probably seen the headlines about Nintendo shutting down its online services for Wii and DS/DSi. Don’t panic--all that’s going is the gaming stuff, which is only used by a tiny percentage of Wii players anyway. The Wii and DS’s ability to perform matchmaking, leaderboards, and online play will cease on 20 May, worldwide. It’s a smart move by Nintendo, as the company looks to offset some of the losses suffered by Wii U by trimming services no longer required by its customers.

While the actual financial gains are minimal, the shutting down of services is actually a savvy PR play by the company. Why? Because it recognises that many families still use the Wii for services like Netflix and LoveFilm, both of which are unaffected by the online gaming shutdown. Similarly, users will also have access to the Internet Channel, and will be able to access YouTube.

Most hardcore Nintendo players have moved on to Wii U and upgraded to 3DS, but the fact that Wii is such a family-friendly machine, means that it will enjoy a longer-than-average lifespan as a family entertainment device. 

The only potential problem comes if you want to use online features while playing in Wii Mode on Wii U. Sorry, all: that’s not going to be possible after 20 May. While some still use these to play Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros Brawl online, the fact that both SSB and Mario Kart will reach Wii U this year should offset any ill-feeling towards Nintendo. Providing no-one is forced to wait too long…

While many like to read unflinching doom into every negative Nintendo story, there really is little to complain about here. Online service shutdowns are natural wastage in every console’s lifecycle, and few ever used Wii’s online play to begin with. Nintendo is making sensible cost-cutting measures to get its business back on track.

Perhaps more unsettling is the call from one of Nintendo’s main investors--Seth Fischer--to apply free-to-play principles and micro transactions to the company’s stable of games. He even used the phrase “Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher” during an open letter to Nintendo President Satoru Iwata. I image the masked masses are already setting fire to the rhododendron bushes in his garden.

While his example is crass, and absolutely not the way to make future Mario games, his insistence that “Nintendo needs to embrace this thematic change in consumer demand, behaviour and expectations to stay relevant” is more sensible. Microsoft and Sony have both experimented with free-to-play to varying degrees of success, but Nintendo is yet to dip its toes into that particular pool. Few would want to see a Killer Instinct style monetisation model applied to Smash Bros, for example, but I do think there are massive gains to be made for Nintendo and its fans in mobile gaming. And it needs to start thinking about this area of gaming sooner rather than later.

The cost of maintaining a presence in the home console space is an expensive business (again, I point you towards the closure of Wii’s online gaming service), and as smartphones and tablets become more ubiquitous, Nintendo could potentially lose customers who can only afford (or want to carry around) a single mobile device. Sony tried to match the versatility of tablets and smartphones with the Vita, and although the hardware is fantastic, the portable itself is far from a success story. 

So the idea of creating games for mobile shouldn’t be dismissed, even though several Nintendo spokespeople have played down the idea of a move to mobile over the past few months. Personally, I think it should be encouraged, providing Nintendo creates a sensible pricing strategy and maintains a considerate (well, it’d be nice to get a few more games) treatment of its existing audience. Surely having our favourite games on more devices can only be a good thing.

12 comments

  • GOD - February 27, 2014 1:31 p.m.

    It's not like Mario Kart Wii was the best Mario Kart, and even though Mario Kart DS was the best Mario Kart, it's online was plagued by snakers. So considering Mario Kart 8 comes out in May as well, I see no real issue.
  • brickman409 - February 27, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    Oh, and Nintendo is already experimenting with free to play. Thankfully it's with new IPs, such as Steel Diver, and that one baseball game they announced at the last Direct.
  • brickman409 - February 27, 2014 1:28 p.m.

    I knew this was going to happen, but it just seems a little too soon. I mean the Wii U has only been out for a year and Microsoft shut down the live servers for the original Xbox in 2010, almost five years after the 360 was released. But then again, Wii and DS online features were no where near as popular as Xbox live. I doubt anyone will try to stay on a Mario Kart server for a month straight like those one guys did with Halo 2.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 27, 2014 8:40 a.m.

    I normally don't care, but shareholders are fucking assholes "Nintendo should go mobile" Handhelds have been Nintendo's strong point for a shit load of years >Implying Nintendo should surrender their strongest suit over their underperforming home console Shareholders are retards and that's why Nintendo is buying back shares. Shareholders don't know or understand video games, they just hear about how mobile is the next big thing and demand that it become the primary focus. Iwata is absolutely right that mobile would only bring short-term profits while irrevocably damaging Nintendo's business model. It's just a shitty fad that will die out in 4 months, meanwhile people are still buying Fucking Mario Kart 7.
  • lionheart1986 - February 27, 2014 7:59 a.m.

    Oh no! How will I play Smash Bros. Brawl online against random people now! What will I do?!? #sarcasm Perfect timing anyway because now there's even more incentive for people to transition to the Wii U for Mario Kart 8, because Mario Kart Wii was the only reason to play online anyway; very few games did it as well as others, especially considering how disappointing Brawl's random matchmaking was. But hopefully they will have improved that for the Wii U...
  • homestar99 - February 27, 2014 8:37 a.m.

    I thought the same thing. What the hell did my brother ever use the Wii's online features for? Answer: Mario Kart... Just, Mario Kart. The only real working online experiences on the Wii were Brawl (On the occasion that my opponents were good) and Mario Kart. So now my brother will beg my mum for a Wii U. Thanks a lot Nintendo - You fucking pricks!
  • shawksta - February 27, 2014 7:01 p.m.

    There were more, but they weren't known as people like to throw away the wii so easily, before Black and White, Pokemon Battle Revolution was a great game to go online for, Mario Strikers charged is also one it still has daily MVP's, also Monster Hunter Tri was popular for it's online co op, but right now people are most likely using the more superior Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate's online on Wii U.
  • shawksta - February 27, 2014 7:03 p.m.

    Well Sakurai did make Kid Icarus Uprising on 3DS, and it had a much superior online than Brawl that had 12 people fighting, and that's on the 3DS, surely it's only a sign of improvements for Smash since Sakurai has the same development team helping.
  • homestar99 - February 27, 2014 10:19 p.m.

    Got it. Not very many well known titles but there were some and the developers will probably do Wii U Smash Bros better if MH3U and KIU is anything to go by. Well, at least Nintendo doesn't do microtransactions. You'd have to pay for certain power ups!
  • Ensoul - February 27, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    I've got one set up in my 5 year old daughters room; perfect for Netflix and the games she plays on the Wii. Also I hate this continued stance of "get in on the micro transactions." They only people who seem to like it are the ones who stand to make money off it. I'm a consumer. I dislike being sold half a game; I also dislike being nickle and dimed.
  • Doctor_Pancakes - February 27, 2014 7:26 a.m.

    Will this affect future Wii U owners that want to transfer all of their Wii purchases to their Wii U or is the shop still going to be open. Also rip to the great Goldeneye community on there. *tear*
  • DaveGoose - February 27, 2014 7:25 a.m.

    “Nintendo needs to embrace this thematic change in consumer demand" No consumer in the history of earth has ever demanded micro transactions, they ruin games. I don't have a Wii-U and I'm not interested in it. But I think Nintendo makes some of the best games in the business, and if they "embraced" micro transactions that's basically the end of Nintendo. I'm glad Nintendo is too stubborn to listen to shareholders!

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