Note: This article will be updated regularly.
The Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection (WFC) was launched back in November of 2005 as Nintendo’s first official online gaming service, starting with support for Mario Kart DS. Previous Nintendo consoles had some limited online support like the GameCube, though none of its four online capable games were actually developed or published by Nintendo. Nintendo would go on to support hundreds of online capable games for both the DS and the Wii using the WFC. Though it was often ridiculed because of its use of Friend Codes rather than a unified account system, the WFC was completely free and undoubtedly provided untold hours of enjoyment for millions of people, possibly as their first online gaming experience. Upon the release of the 3DS, Nintendo announced that the service would be succeeded and absorbed into the new Nintendo Network service which provides similar online services for both the 3DS and the Wii U.
Unfortunately, earlier this year Nintendo announced that it would be discontinuing the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service on May 20, 2014. This comes on the heels of the shutdown of WiiConnect24 on June 28, 2013 which affected some Wii services as the Nintendo Channel. It has been known that the WFC runs on slightly modified GameSpy servers – a company which has hosted online servers and master lists for hundreds of PC, PlayStation 2, and Dreamcast games since the late 1990s. GameSpy was acquired by Glu Mobile in 2012 and since then many of the online servers from GameSpy have been shutdown for specific games. It has recently come to light that Glu Mobile will be completely discontinuing the GameSpy service on May 31, shutting down all of the remaining servers for hundreds of games. Though it may never be known publicly whether Nintendo or GameSpy initiated their respective shutdowns, it is at least clear that Nintendo would have to completely rework their online infrastructure for hundreds of DS and Wii games if they were to continue to offer official online servers – something which would be financially unfeasible. As such, the DS and Wii will join the ranks of other dead-online consoles such as the Xbox, whose Live service was discontinued in 2010.
However, there is still hope for maintaining online functionality of these games via unofficial means. Private servers have existed for nearly as long as official online game servers and allow players to host online functionality for games completely independently. There have been many past success stories of reviving online game functionality for video game consoles with private servers, such as the Schthack servers for the Phantasy Star Online games. As such, there has been a big push to create private servers to replace both GameSpy servers as a whole (such as OpenSpy) and the GameSpy servers that run Nintendo’s WFC games. Doing so requires reverse-engineering of the servers’ protocols and though a lot has already been accomplished in creating generic GameSpy private servers, many games use unique implementations of the servers. As such, it is important to capture network packets of all WFC games while the official servers are still up in order to assist in building private servers in future. Various resources and other links on how to do so can be found below:
- Save-Nintendo-WiFi.com – Provides guides and dumps for both DS and Wii games
- Nintendo DWC Emulator GitHub project page – The first publicly released working private server for DS and Wii games
- MKW Server Project – A project to create a server for Mario Kart Wii (and should be able to be expanded to other games)
- GBATemp DS and Wii “Save Nintendo WiFi” topics
- Preserving DS Saves with DLC Flags Unlocked – An alternative approach to preserving DLC on the DS by sharing save files