Nintendo Kills Online Functionality For Wii, DS Titles, Highlighting Need For Greater User Control Over Content They Supposedly Own

from the lonely-Mario dept

Whether it’s music or games, we’ve seen countless examples of how the content you think you own can either be taken away from you entirely — or can suddenly be greatly limited, often with little to no warning. The latest example of that is courtesy of Nintendo, which is informing users that the online components of a long list of titles for the Nintendo Wii, DS and DSi will no longer work after May 20 of this year. From Mario Kart Wii to Animal Crossing: Wild World, many of these titles will suddenly find themselves with a gaping hole where core gameplay mechanics used to be. Nintendo is telling these users that they appreciate user support of legacy systems, even if Nintendo won’t support them themselves:

“We at Nintendo sincerely thank our fans for their continued support of our company’s legacy systems. Your enthusiasm for games made for these systems speaks to their longevity, and the passion of Nintendo fans.”

Except if you really cared about fan enthusiasm for legacy titles, why not empower them to hack together solutions to help keep at least some core multiplayer functions in place? Because that would keep them from buying your latest hardware, even if they’re perfectly happy playing older games. People have a right to worry that this phenomenon is accelerating as the newer generation of consoles become more tied to the Internet and the cloud than ever before:

“Nintendo’s decision to stop running Wii and DS servers feels like the leading edge of a big expansion of this problem, though, as the first full console generation with tightly integrated online play starts to get phased out. I give the Xbox 360 and PS3 two or three more years at most before Sony and Microsoft decide it’s not worth supporting servers for the aging hardware anymore. Looking ahead even further, there will probably come a day when Titanfall is no longer playable on the Xbox One because Microsoft thinks it’s no longer worthwhile to support it (in that case, the game won’t even have a single-player mode to fall back on).”

PC users for years have hammered together online solutions for this problem (albeit not always glamorously), and it doesn’t seem like it would be a particularly taxing thing for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to throw a little support in the general direction of core fans, making them more likely to buy your products in the future. The alternative is a path where titles keep going up in price, while the shelf-life on their full functionality continues to decrease. Now you’ll excuse me if I take one last, teary-eyed lap around Moo Moo Meadows in Mario Kart Wii — alone.

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Companies: nintendo

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Comments on “Nintendo Kills Online Functionality For Wii, DS Titles, Highlighting Need For Greater User Control Over Content They Supposedly Own”

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43 Comments
Wally (profile) says:

The only reason PS3 and XBox360 will still be online for years to come is that Sony and Microsoft make their users pay a monthly fee to play online…Nintendo provided a free online gaming service to its users and still does….and since they lost money investing in the Wii U, it sort of makes sense to switch off the servers for their previous generation of consoles.

Casey says:

Re: Re:

But in turn for that monthly fee users get far more functionality than Nintendo provides. I highly doubt the online service is costing Nintendo much money to support. They simply want users to upgrade to newer devices. Despite the fact that last year people were still buying new games for these older consoles. They are already becoming paperweights.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh dear, Apple or Nintendo were mentioned in an unflattering way, so Wally has to come in with his ill-informed twaddle…

First off, this is false:

“The only reason PS3… will still be online for years to come is that Sony… make their users pay a monthly fee to play online…”

Nope. The PS4 indeed requires a payment to play online, not the PS3. While the PS Plus is an optional extra for the PS3, online gaming for the PS3 requires no such subscription.

“Nintendo provided a free online gaming service to its users and still does”

The point of the article you’re replying to is that no, they don’t do this. Whether or not they lost money of the Wii U is irrelevant – they’re still turning off this service for many players, so it doesn’t offer that service.

Anyway, let’s get this straight: you support Nintendo turning off a free service and preventing players from setting up their own free alternative, but Microsoft and Sony are bad guys for charging users for a service that requires no such turn off?

What’s amusing is that in your ill-informed rambling, you accidentally identified one possible solution (like Sony, Nintendo could just start charging for their formerly free service to enable it to stay online, perhaps with incentives such as the free games Sony offers – easy for Nintendo since they publish many of their consoles’ titles). But, someone hurt poor widdle Nintendo’s feelings and you had to jump in…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Do you have any clue how much it costs to run the servers that Nintendo does for it’s now abandoned millions of online users? I love how you assume that I support the shutdown just because I merely give the reason they actually shut those services down…

“The point of the article you’re replying to is that no, they don’t do this. Whether or not they lost money of the Wii U is irrelevant – they’re still turning off this service for many players, so it doesn’t offer that service.”

The free service is still offered on the WiiU and the servers are based on the affected console’s software…not their hardware…If the Wii ran WiiU firmware, you’ll still be able to play Mario Kart Wii. My point is that that likely need the server space for the now growing number of WiiU users. That’s all.

“What’s amusing is that in your ill-informed rambling, you accidentally identified one possible solution (like Sony, Nintendo could just start charging for their formerly free service to enable it to stay online, perhaps with incentives such as the free games Sony offers – easy for Nintendo since they publish many of their consoles’ titles). But, someone hurt poor widdle Nintendo’s feelings and you had to jump in .”

One…you’re highly misinformed…and in regard to the bolded statement, I’m sorry you had a bad day…I suggest a psychologist or counselor in stead of taking your frustrations out on random users and commentors on the Internet. You really think I’m stupid enough to fall to your level?

SirThoreth (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

As per below, the reason Nintendo’s doing this is because the service they used for their online services on the Wii and DS is being cut off:

http://docs.poweredbygamespy.com/wiki/How_does_GameSpy_support_the_Nintendo_Wii_%26_DS%3F

http://games.slashdot.org/story/12/12/07/2250252/gamespys-new-owners-begin-disabling-multiplayer-without-warning

http://www.poweredbygamespy.com/2012/12/11/gamespy-response-2/

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-27-hundreds-of-wii-ds-games-losing-online-play

It sounds like Glu is letting the contracts for existing providers lapse without giving them the option to renew, then, when gamers complain, simply saying “Hey, they let their contracts lapse!”

Rekrul says:

I’ve been saying for some time now that tying games and game systems so closely to online services was a bad idea. Eventually companies decide that they don’t want to support the old systems anymore and pull the plug.

Imagine if Nintendo had had the same idea as Microsoft and designed the Wii so that it has go online once every 24 hours to remain functional. Wii consoles would become doorstops overnight.

(Yes, I know Microsoft didn’t go through with the ‘one connection per day’ plan, but the point is that they wanted to.)

Shaun Wilson (profile) says:

They have already done this with previous pokemon games for DS – “Pokemon Black and White” and “Pokemon Black 2 and White 2”. They used to have an online component called the dream world but they shut this down not long before the new 3ds games came out. Without this online functionality it is still possible to “complete” the game – though significant functionality is lost. This is particularly a problem with pokemon games as they are still played long after the initial release – as reflected by their high resale value years after they are no longer available new.

Anonymous Coward says:

the easy answer as far as customers are concerned, is that when something is bought, as it should be and was until Congress allowed the entertainment industries change it, is to actually own it! therefore you can do what you want with it! on top of that, put the game on the disk that’s bought, not 30% of it and then have 2 days downloading the rest only to find that there are constant updates and the game MUST be played via the net!

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

But did they prevent critical features of Windows 95 from working when that support ended?

Depends, does issuing patches for discovered security flaws count? Not that I disagree, and Windows 95 works fine without security updates/patches…but some people would argue that critical features includes security flaw mitigation.

scotts13 (profile) says:

Expiration date

I don’t play a lot of games, and of the few I do two are almost ten years old. When you “buy” a product, you expect to have the use of it until it wears out, something that can’t happen to a pile of ones and zeros. These companies should not be allowed to take down the supporting servers – ever – unless the game was marketed with a clear expiration date: “Online functions, listed below, may not be available after October 2019.”

Let the customer make an intelligent, informed choice, not essentially have the product stolen back by the manufacturer at some arbitrary time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Expiration date

I rarely get to play online games… I only buy consoles when the new ones come out and the old ones show up at yard sales – so more often than not, by the time I get around to buying a console and the games, they are already unsupported.

I can pay something like ~$20 for a Wii these days, and anywhere from $1-5 per game used. I don’t expect any of the online features to ever work – so I stay away from those type of games entirely.

DCL says:

Re: Expiration date

I wonder when this will go to court. It is a tricky subject in that for it is a new area of “social contract”/”expectations” and this isn’t limited to games as it includes email, online storage, web services… anything in the “cloud”.

In a way I see it as similar to “Lifetime guarantee” is was determined that by it is meant that as the lifetime of the product under normal use, but what is the “Lifetime” of a game? So many questions yet to be answered!!!!

I would like to see game publishers offer “local online modes” or peer to peer functionality when they the sunset a title. There are a few that do it but it is rare… The problem is that wasn’t built before or shortly after the game launches it is likely there is no longer any Developers around to make the conversion…. Game devs don’t linger around on old projects and quickly move to help with new game and initiatives. Could the game compares open it up to the public to fix… yes but that would probably open them up to all sorts of liability and would possibly show industry secrets and give a leg up to people who maliciously hack the game for cheats. Game teams often reuse techniques and technology when possible.

I know many of the complexities (I work in the video gaming industry) for online game servers and how sun setting them ends up being necessary… there are a lot of complexities for maintaining a service that most people don’t realize many around security and network traffic, server capacity, budget, lack of developer legacy knowledge…

…and the anecdotal evidence that you and your friends play “ALL THE TIME” doesn’t cut it as proof they shouldn’t shut it down… the companies know exactly how many people are playing at any given time and how many are unique users.

Still saddens me to see games sunsetted… even when I am not playing them anymore.

squall_seawave (profile) says:

on one hand i can understand nintendo position the cost of mantaining the server no longer is offset by the earnings and most of the old users have upgraded

but on the other hand this is a symptom of something more nefarious the loss of control of your products

this is the start of the end so far we have single player and thats why it must not die but the CEOS in the search of more $$$ are alienating customers so why i should buy a online only game like titanfal at full retail price if i know that in 10 years maximun will be useless and the minimun can be as low as 2 months, i hope the online only craze dies soon

SirThoreth (profile) says:

The thing is Nintendo isn’t really doing this by choice:

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-27-hundreds-of-wii-ds-games-losing-online-play

The key here is that, when the Wii debuted in 2005, they didn’t have an online network for it in place, so they licensed one. Another company, Glu, bought that company, and has since then been shutting off service for its customers. Why? No idea, as they’re not talking. But presumably Nintendo’s current contract is up, they’re not getting an option to renew, and modifying games shipped to customers isn’t an option.

So the moral of the story here is Nintendo should have better anticipated how online gaming was going to take off when they launched the Wii, and taken responsibility for their own network…but that’s already been made painfully obvious to them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

just some more on slashdot

http://games-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/04/04/1254242/gamespy-multiplayer-shutting-down-affecting-hundreds-of-games

all of GameSpy is shutting down. the lesson, despite TechDirt’s ranting, is not about abandoning older games, but about relying on third party efforts to support yourself.

the new Wii U, 3DS system seems to be build by Nintendo, which means there were growing pains (are still…), but should prevent this from the future.

Random Troll says:

Killing Servers

Could SOMEBODY kindly explain to me why this is a surprise at all?!?
If I had the memory (and the time) I could spend hours detailing the number of games, on-line storage, email, anon. email, etc.,etc., that simply closed up shop.
Some with warning, some without, some bought-out, some bankrupted.

Again, if it’s free online, why is it any surprise?

Rekrul says:

This problem is only going to get worse in the future as games are delivered digitally, direct to consoles and can’t be backed up due to piracy concerns. How are you going to re-install Call of Duty 9 on your PS5 once support for that system has been dropped?

What about game-less systems like OnLive where the game itself is entirely online? The service shuts down and the entire library of games disappears.

The other day I helped archive an old text adventure written in BASIC for the Vic-20. As I was doing this, I couldn’t help thinking about all the games that will be lost as the online servers shut down and you’re no longer able to play them, or re-download them if your copy gets corrupted. 🙁

Lobsangdibbler says:

Secondary Options

This move is likely a response to offset the abysmal sales of the Wii-U (A system with an abysmal launch title selection and even poorer development post-launch.) The system itself has had little to offer that other systems have not done better. It is essentially the N-gauge of Nintendo products. The notable games for it are entirely remakes, I’m looking at you Windwaker and Monster Hunter Tri U.

I do enjoy those games but compared to the selection on the Wii and the DS offered it is an abysmal switch. The DS is the single most ubiquitous hand held gaming device on the planet and quite a few of the games in it offer online features that add to the games themselves.

By choosing to eliminate these services for expensive new consoles, yes the WII-U and 3ds(2ds) are “expensive” for new consoles considering one is dated and the other simulation sickness prevents people from playing, Nintendo is effectively shooting itself in the foot for a profit grab that will be disappointing for them and add more tarnish to the aging giant. Unless they expect to see a slew of new customer attracting IP coming to these systems then we can all predict the outcome. It happened to Sega twice.

They do have an easy out on this, release the server software and let their customers do with it as they will. That however will cut into their bottom line as having these devices remain functional may slow down the sales of their new systems. It may not. It is hard to tell with nintendo devices as even a lot of the old first generation gameboys are still in functioning order and in use.

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