Pretendo will keep Wii U and 3DS consoles online after Nintendo Network shutdown

Mike Powers

Something to look forward to: Nintendo closed its free online network, Nintendo Network, on April 9, permanently disconnecting Wii U and 3DS consoles from online services. While the company’s latest console, the Nintendo Switch, relies on a subscription-based online network called Nintendo Switch Online, there are plans underway to revive the Nintendo Network – unofficially, of course.

Pretendo Network aims to provide a free, open-source alternative for Nintendo servers necessary to power online features on the 3DS and Wii U. This fan-made initiative is now the only viable option for using these older Nintendo consoles online, although support for many of the games designed for online play is still being implemented.

Before its shutdown, Nintendo Network facilitated Wii U and 3DS multiplayer for over 12 years. While often overlooked, it remains an important part of Nintendo’s gaming history.

Accessing Pretendo servers typically involves installing homebrew firmware on the Wii U and 3DS. However, now that Nintendo Network is defunct, developers have shared a private exploit that allows connection to the network from a “stock” Wii U console. According to Pretendo, no homebrew or custom firmware is required, only a DNS change.

Pretendo will keep Wii U and 3DS consoles online after Nintendo Network shutdown

Developers have opted to keep the exploit private in case Nintendo decides to patch it. This SSL-based method does not function with services that implement their own SSL libraries, including online features for third-party games or even YouTube. Additionally, titles running in an embedded browser are not supported, although the in-game Miiverse feature does work.

As documented on Pretendo’s progress page, running 3DS and Wii U games online can be a hit-or-miss experience at this point. Pretendo is not yet available to the public, and many of its features are being developed independently with no fixed ETA. Furthermore, the homebrew network does not currently plan to support the original Wii platform (which is already served by Wiimmfi) or the Switch console.

Over the past six months, Pretendo developers have diligently worked on archiving additional content. With the assistance of the community, they have managed to save “several terabytes” of game content from various services, with plans to upload all of this data to the Internet Archive. Once the archiving process is complete, online Wii U and 3DS data will be freely available for download through IA servers.

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