It’s official. Both the Nintendo 3DS and Nintendo Wii U will be switching off their online play on April 8 at 7 P.M. ET. After that, your devices will sit alone, detached from the wider world, until the madness of solitude sets in.
The handheld 3DS was originally released in 2011, the Wii U a year later in 2012, both complete with a suite of online functions used to sell the devices at the time. This April, Nintendo will be raising the giant, metal lever marked “ONLINE,” the industrial light above flickering from green to red, as the background electric buzz fades to eerie silence. And all seven people still playing Mario Kart 7 will look up from their screens in blank-eyed confusion, blinking at the sun coming through the drapes, and then reeling at the sight of the nearest calendar.
It could be tempting to view this with something of a shrug. Because, among the scant few people who ever bought a Wii U in the first place, it’s hard to imagine a thriving online community that’s about to go dark. But the reality is, this is another generation of gaming history getting harder to access, another dagger in the back of gaming preservation. It’s yet another console that will fire off a bunch of error messages when you search for online functionality that’s no longer there. And yes, this means SpotPass is no more.
Of course, it makes no economic sense for Nintendo to pay for the upkeep of services that only a fraction of a percent of people will ever use again, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who’d happily take on the role as fans. And, honestly, as much as I joked about it above, I’ve made myself want to play at least one last online round of Mario Kart on my 3DS—something that brought me much happiness back at the start of the last decade.
All offline functionality should continue as normal, and Nintendo have no current plans to stop allowing players to download owned software, or update data. The latter is maintained, in large part, so Nintendo can continue to roll out updates that brick flashcarts.
Two 3DS exceptions survive. Pokémon Bank and Poké Transporter will continue to operate, the former allowing you to store pocket monsters from 3DS Pokémon games (Red and Blue through Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon), the latter the means by which you move the creatures to the Bank. Given the paid subscriptions to the service were only ended in March 2023, it’d have been a pretty bad move to have those switch off already.