Switch games on shelf

Last month, in the middle of an absolutely jam-packed month of game releases, the suits at Nintendo shrugged their collective shoulders and decided to halt online support for the 3DS and the Wii U. This goes into effect in March of 2023, and it’s basically an apocalyptic event for the online presence of those older consoles.

Sony made a similar decision last year, announcing the shutdown of online services for the PS3 and PlayStation Vita. This wouldn’t have affected already-purchased games, but it would have prevented users from making digital purchases going forward. This move was so unpopular that Sony backpedaled on it, explaining, “it’s clear that we made the wrong decision here.”

Nintendo is not likely to reverse course on this. While Sony is willing to bend to the whims of its fans when they’re loud enough — especially after a controversy — Nintendo generally isn’t. They make the decisions they make for the reasons they make them, and that’s that. But they have Mario and Zelda, and as long as that’s true, they will have a stranglehold on our hearts, which means they can do whatever they want and we just have to roll with it, whether Mario approves or not.

He doesn’t. Just look at this face.

Bowser's Fury

This doesn’t bode well for the future of the Nintendo Switch. Sure, the console is doing really, really well right now, but inevitably something new will replace it, and at some point down the line, there will be a Thanos snap for its online services. That’s just a hard truth of the technology industry. And rumors are already swirling about a Switch successor (which the community has been calling the Nintendo Switch 2).

But I’ve already safeguarded myself against this inevitability. I love the Nintendo Switch, and I hope I’m still playing it fifteen years from now (the way people are still playing the GameCube in 2022). This is something I realized pretty early on in my Switch ownership, so I made a conscious decision to buy all of my Switch games physically. I have an enormous collection of these small plastic cartridges at this point, and it seems to grow by the month. I do make occasional exceptions; games like Don’t Starve and Graveyard Keeper are worth owning, even if I have to give myself a little wiggle room on this all-physical rule.

And that’s why it’s so important to support companies like Limited Run and Special Reserve; these are companies that believe in physical games in an age when digital is king. They’re the video-game version of those organizations that believe in the preservation of physical books. While I realize I’m starting to sound like an advertisement here, I honestly believe that these companies are doing important work.

N64 Games on Switch

And look, I completely understand the convenience of digital. In fact, I’m pretty much all-digital on my other consoles at this point — I even bought the Xbox Series S over the X, which doesn’t even have a disc drive. So my entire Xbox catalog is digital, and I’ve yet to buy a physical PS5 game.

But the Switch feels different to me. The Switch feels magical in a way that other consoles don’t. Yes, I love my Series S, and I love my PS5 — I’m astonished by the technical feats of these consoles. But at the same time, the Switch, as underpowered as it is when compared to even the PS4 and Xbox One, is still a powerhouse when it comes to immensely playable games that never seem to get old, titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Yeah, every console has great games (well, except maybe the Virtual Boy), but the Switch’s library just feels timeless.

Nintendo eShop

So while the announcement that Nintendo is squashing their online service might lead to a lot of anxiety for Nintendo fans, there is one surefire way to protect yourself against this inevitable shutdown. Buy physical and rest easy.

Just don’t Google “cartridge rot” if you’re a collector who’s hoping to sleep well tonight…

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