The Wii Shop Channel died today, Jan. 30, 2019. It died as it lived: full of joy, beloved games, and iconic music.
Born Dec. 10, 2006, the Wii Shop Channel came from humble beginnings. The storefront arrived shortly after its namesake console, the Wii, which was born in November. From the start, the Wii Shop Channel felt different from its competitors (the PlayStation Store and the Xbox Live Marketplace), with the same light, kid-friendly design aesthetic that permeated throughout the Wii’s interface. It didn’t highlight retail Wii games to buy digitally, instead encouraging buyers to spend their Wii Points on other novelties.
What the Wii Shop Channel did offer, however, we loved. Its offerings included other Wii applications (like one for player-wide surveys and another for world news updates), streaming services, and original, downloadable games. The applications were distinctly Nintendo, bring Wii users (and their Miis) together in non-competitive ways. And the exclusive games were part of the WiiWare brand, ranging from Pokémon and Final Fantasy spinoffs to new titles both lighthearted and more in-depth.
But chief among these was the Virtual Console. The celebration of Nintendo’s gigantic lineup of older games remains the most fondly remembered part of the Wii Shop, as it has yet to be matched by any other console. Not even the succeeding Nintendo eShop has the same litany of classics available; the Switch’s digital store doesn’t have anything at all like the Virtual Console.
The Virtual Console introduced new players to a gaming history that few other console makers can compete with. Not only did Nintendo supply games from its own older systems, like the NES and Nintendo 64, but even Sega and SNK, with its Neo Geo, got in on the nostalgia machine. It was a recurring treat to see which games were coming to the Virtual Console when the Wii Shop Channel updated, even as the numbers dwindled toward the end of its lifespan.
Wii Points have been unavailable to purchase for more than a year now, and thus, only those who hoarded them were able to reap the bountiful treasures on the Wii Shop Channel before it was too late. But the time to buy Pokémon Snap, or Super Mario RPG, or Chrono Trigger, or even stranger gems like Cho Aniki, and discover or rediscover them is gone, but never forgotten.
The Wii Shop Channel leaves behind a beautiful tune in its absence. The family requests that friends and well-wishers listen to it in lieu of flowers. We’ve included it below.