3DS and Wii U servers officially die in 2024, but fans have already spent years building their replacements

Nintendo 3DS bundle
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo has announced its plans to shut down servers for the Wii U and 3DS in April 2024, but fans of the iconic gaming handheld have already been working on a massive replacement in the Pretendo Network service.

Pretendo has been in development for ages, and it aims to offer a free, open-source, alternative to the official Nintendo Network for Wii U and 3DS servers. Groups of developers are working on building servers to accommodate every single game or console feature that once relied on the Nintendo Network, from the Miiverse and console-level friends lists to a wide variety of games both big and small.

These unofficial servers support real consoles that've been hacked to run homebrew applications, and Wii U enthusiasts can use the Cemu emulator to connect to these servers on PC. The big thing to be aware of is that all these individual features are being worked on by different groups of developers, which means there's no clear ETA one when it'll all be done.

For now, Pretendo is still in closed beta, so you can only get access through selection by a development team, or through a donation to a project. However, Pretendo does often hold open betas, and a comprehensive open beta is planned for the month of December. For now, Wara Wara Plaza - the part of the Wii U menu where random Miis from online wander around - is currently open to everyone, so you can test out at least one of Pretendo's features for yourself. 

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With news of the official servers shutting down, interest in Pretendo is naturally pretty high, and the devs say they're adjusting their development plans in light of the news. Part of their mission involves archiving data like leaderboard information, and the clock is ticking on how much longer leaderboard data will even be available to be archived. With that in mind, the devs are asking communities who actively make use of official leaderboards to reach out and help prioritize historic data.

You can check out the project's website if you want more information on how it works or how to get it installed. Today, as ever, I remain in awe of the dedication fans show toward keeping gaming history alive. A similar project called Insignia is also working to get the OG Xbox back online, and I hope the trend continues.

Check out the best 3DS games and the best Wii U games as you dust off your old consoles.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.