Nintendo makes it clear that only piracy can save the history of video games
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By closing the Wii Store Channel and preventing users from downloading old games, Nintendo again demonstrates that in the modern digital era, the things you buy don't really belong to you.

Having been online for over a decade, Nintendo closes the Wii Shop Channel. The company removed the possibility of buying an in-store currency (Wii Points) as early as last March, and since January 30, users can no longer buy WiiWare or play games with the Virtual Console.

At first glance, this move can be easily dismissed as the natural death of a service tied to an aging console as a result of evolution. Especially considering that Nintendo gave users plenty of time to spend Wii Points before closing the store. However, the day Nintendo turns off the Wii Store Channel should be a serious warning for everyone who cares about saving video games and for any consumer using a digital store: often the products we buy in digital form do not belong to us, and when one of the digital stores closed, the only way to keep it for history is piracy.

In this case, even after the official closing of the store, Wii users will be able to download games already purchased and downloaded from the store, if they can place them on the internal memory of the Wii or additional SD card. However, Nintendo said that at some point in the future, the company would close all services associated with the Wii Shop Channel, “including the ability to re-download games from WiiWare and Virtual Console, as well as support for the Wii System Transfer Tool, which transfers data from the Wii system to Wii U system.

This means that if the games purchased by the user in the store are not downloaded by that time, or that the drive on which the user will store them will fail, he will lose them forever. Users can buy games again in the Wii U Virtual Console, or get them through a new Switch subscription service, but they have to pay for it.

"" Sucks that Nintendo did not create the infrastructure that would allow people to support these games, "said in an interview with Frank Tsifaldi, founder of fund history of video games the Video the Game history Foundation -. It can talk about how the Internet was for the Nintendo a novelty in the Wii era Perhaps they created a system that is not thinking about this »..

Nintendo did not respond to a request for comments to the situation.

The Wii Shop Channel is not the first service from Nintendo that allowed users to download games (back in 1995, Satellaview allowed it), but it was a good and legal way to play many classic games without having to keep track of their old physical copies. Wii Virtual Console offered hundreds of games . Today, Nintendo Switch Online offers only 31 games.for NES. And although Nintendo is announcing its intention to expand this library, probably due to well-known classic games like Zelda and Mario, there are no guarantees that there will be little-known games like Clu Clu Land that were available on the Wii Virtual Console and are still available for purchase. on the Wii U Virtual Console. Will Nintendo continue to offer old little-known games and spend money on storing them on servers if they do not bring it profit?

“I think from the fact that we have not seen little-known games since the Virtual Console, it follows that Nintendo has problems with such games,” Cifaldi said.

In the digital age, companies are increasingly knocking the ground out from under the feet of products about which consumers have a false sense of ownership., said law professor Aaron Perzanovsky of the University of Keysov Western Reserve District, whose last book, The End Of Ownership, carefully examines and emphasizes this problem.

“This situation is very much like Microsoft’s 2016 decision to close the Xbox Fitness platform,” Perzanovsky told us. “For users who thought they had purchased exercise content, Microsoft announced that this content would no longer be available for download or other access. At that time, criticism struck the company, but because of the relatively small user base, this story did not develop. ”

And the search for ways to loosen the concept of software ownership extends far beyond the scope of video games. Trying to abuse copyright in order to monopolize the repair of their products, manufacturers such as GM and John Deere have long stated that the software in cars and tractors does not belong to users who have spent thousands of dollars on these units.

The tendency to erode the concept of possession after the sale does not end on software. Iron makers are now constantly bricking electronic devices that they no longer want to maintain, or lowering the functionality of game consoles after the sale, which confuses users who thought they owned the product and then discovered the tricks after the purchase.

In the case of Nintendo, Perzanovsky suggests that the company either did not want to shell out to protect the integrity of the users ’purchases, or simply decided to force users to pay for the same games again.

“The calculation can be purely economic; shop support costs more than its profits, ”said Perzanovsky. “If there are third-party games in the store, Nintendo may not want to renew their license agreements.” Or this decision may be associated with the planned release of the next console or service that would otherwise compete with the Wii store. ”

When companies are too complicated for users to process the desired content (or, hell, already paid for), users usually begin to engage in piracy. Studies showThat the best way to deal with copyright infringement is to focus on innovations such as cheaper content and easier access to it. In this case, Nintendo does exactly the opposite.

The company recently took the habit of pursuing the largest illegal distributors of old games: sites with ROM. As we already wrote, when Nintendo closed several of the largest ROM sites on the Internet, many people, including game developers, lost their only access to them. Nintendo is in its legal right to shut down ROM sites, but, as Cifaldi points out, this puts the video game archivists in a difficult position.

“At the moment I cannot legally add these games to our library,” he said. “There is no legal way.”

But the fact that downloading these games illegally does not stop people. Large ROM sites have disappeared, no obvious alternative has appeared, but in principle, it is possible to find copies of all games offered on the Wii Virtual Console on the Internet. To save historical records, the Internet archive even stores the HTML page of the Wii Shop Channel’s main page (icons, instructions, descriptions) so that future generations will know what it looked like.

“I don’t care that the zeros and ones will disappear completely from our world - piracy will always find a way, I’m just worried that ordinary people can discover all this and be inspired by it,” said Digaldi. “I’m worried about this kind of video game care that they won’t inspire the artists of the future.”

Digaldi notes that the work of Toby Fox, the developer of indie game Undertale, which became a hit, is based on access to old games, as well as the work of Sonic Mania developers (considered the first good game about Sonic for many years), which began with the development of fan games using hacking ROM.

“It was the backbone of a commercial product that brought the company a lot of money. I don’t know how we will now create new works of art based on old games, ”Cifaldi said.

Given the complexity of this debate, many users may simply not understand how much they have been deceived. It may seem that everything you bought on iTunes or Steam will remain yours forever, because Apple and Valve are too large to fail, but if these companies ever decide what to give users to download the content they paid for, then no no guarantee that you will have access to your games and movies. Please note that the Wii was not some unknown device that did not succeed. It became extremely popular, sold in 100 million copies., which made it one of the most popular consoles from Nintendo. Wii U, the best option to search for these games after the Wii Store Channel is closed, sold a total of 13 million copies. There are potentially millions of Wii owners who can lose access to their games without transferring them to the Wii U, which is not so easy to get today. Nintendo stopped its production in 2016, which is why it is now harder to find . New Wii U can be bought on Amazon , but it will cost $ 600.

Other consumers may simply decide that this behavior cannot be avoided, Perzanovsky said.

“Unfortunately, I think that it is starting to seem to consumers that one cannot get away from such behavior,” he said. “Especially sophisticated consumers of digital content, such as gamers, have a feeling that companies will abuse their power and harm consumers.”

Whatever the motivation of Nintendo, this behavior will only be more common among other industry giants, and regulators should do their job better, ensuring that companies keep their promises regarding product ownership.

Consumers should better deal with this, Perzanovsky said. “Consumers should loudly object to the presence of such lures and change tactics,” he said. - They need to develop a more long-term memory and vote with money. These firms rely on consumer anger to be temporary. ”

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