from the nintendon’t dept
A little over a year ago, we discussed Nintendo’s shutdown of the eShop for its 3DS and Wii U consoles. That shutdown ended up being delayed due to a metric ton of outcry from the gaming public, but that was only a stay of execution. In a matter of days, those shops will be discontinued, preventing anyone from purchasing any titles in those stores. Many of the titles that are original to those consoles are not available anywhere else. Nintendo has made some vague noises about them becoming available on modern consoles, but all of those plans live at the pleasure of Nintendo executives. Coupled with its extremely litigious nature on matters of intellectual property, that’s how you get to my nicknaming Nintendo as “the Disney of the video game industry.”
Preventing the gaming public from continuing to buy games that rely on a company-operated backend infrastructure is one thing. After all, Nintendo can do what it wants when it comes to putting its products into commerce. But what really annoyed a ton of people, myself included, was how this would impact archivists and historians, or anyone else interested in preserving video game history and culture. With the impending shutdown, some of those entities are once again expressing concern.
“While it’s unfortunate that people won’t be able to purchase digital 3DS or Wii U games anymore, we understand the business reality that went into this decision,” the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF) tweeted when the eShop shutdowns were announced a year ago. “What we don’t understand is what path Nintendo expects its fans to take, should they wish to play these games in the future.”
Yeah, if you’re concerned about preserving culture for the public, this is a big fucking deal. And you really do have to keep in mind that the entire bargain that is copyright law is designed around offering a limited amount of monopoly protection to content creators specifically so that the public gets access to more content. Because Nintendo is litigious, utilizes DRM, and the DMCA exists, all of that combines to make it wildly unsafe for museums and archivists to actually retain copies of these games that will shortly no longer be found anywhere else. And, no, the exemptions built into the DMCA for content such as movies and literature simply don’t exist for the video game space.
The US Copyright Office has issued exemptions to those rules to allow libraries and research institutions to make digital copies for archival purposes. Those organizations can even distribute archived digital copies of items like ebooks, DVDs, and even generic computer software to researchers through online access systems.
But those remote-access exemptions explicitly leave out video games. That means researchers who want to access archived game collections have to travel to the physical location where that archive resides—even if the archived games themselves were never distributed on physical media.
All of this was lobbied for by an industry that apparently has some kind of fear of these organizations creating online sites where anyone can go and play any archived game at any time, leading to the decimation, nay, destruction of the video game industry. Industry lobbyists have pointed to the Internet Archive’s emulated games collection, which — checks notes — , well, I guess that didn’t destroy the industry at all, so I’m not sure what point they’re trying to make.
So what can be done? Not a whole lot, honestly, but some hobbyists are at least going to make a go of it.
In an effort to address this—or at least address it in a single place on as few consoles as possible—YouTuber The Completionist decided to sit down and spend almost a year of his life (328 days in total) buying his way through both libraries.
He’s now done, and the statistics are staggering. The dude bought 866 Wii U games and 1547 3DS titles, numbers that include DSiWare, Virtual Console releases and downloadable content. That adds up to 1.2TB of data for the Wii U, and 267GB for the 3DS. Or, for the 3DS purists reading, 2,136,689 blocks.
As part of this effort, The Completionist has said he plans to donate all of this digital media to the VGHF. What they can do with all of that content still remains to be seen. All of the same copyright and DMCA rules still apply, so what access it can grant to researchers, never mind the public, is in question.
But at least the content resides somewhere where it can be preserved for now. It just sure would be nice if the deal struck for copyright didn’t somehow leave one hobbyist having to spend tens of thousands of dollars to do the work that Nintendo should be doing alongside museums itself, if it had any actual interest in preserving the culture it helped create.
Filed Under: 3ds, archivists, culture, eshop, history, hobbyists, shutdown, wiiu
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