It’s March 31, Mario’s dead!
At least, that’s the prevailing joke on social media today. We made the same joke, several times. As of tomorrow, Nintendo will stop selling Super Mario 3D All-Stars, shut down the servers for Super Mario Maker, completely shut down Super Mario 35, and for some reason you’ll also never be able to buy Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light because that plumber is not going down without taking Marth with him.
It’s a funny joke, but also it kind of masks the reality that this actually sucks. Since last September, Nintendo has been repeating the mantra that these are time-limited anniversary releases and thus will go away on April 1 of the following year. Let’s stop right there, because we don’t actually have to accept this premise. There’s nothing about anniversary releases that requires they have to be time-limited for any reason. Nintendo’s hands aren’t bound here as they humbly supplicate to the Mario audience and say “Gosh, we’d really love to make these games available longer, but it’s an anniversary, you know?”
Ceasing production on physical copies by a certain date makes some sense. It sucks, but I get it, you can’t just print copies forever and at some point other games have to take those production queue slots. Pulling it from the eShop will never not be gross and a cynical move by Nintendo to force people to buy the game during a pandemic in fear that they will never get it. The fact that these things, Fire Emblem included, are tied to the financial year makes the decision so blatantly money-related is really just Nintendo putting their thumb in your eye.
It is always going to be some series’ anniversary, whether it’s Mario or Zelda or Metroid or Fire Emblem or Wario Ware or Hyrule Warriors or whatever, there will never not be an excuse for Nintendo to reproduce this strategy as much as they want and they have no impetus to ever decide against it. In an age where digital sales make up half or more total game sales, commodifying reproducible and essentially-infinite copies of a game to be more like physical titles in the worst possible ways should be called out so it doesn’t happen again.
It is funny that Nintendo’s executing Mario. It’s a good joke. But also remember that they’re doing an actually shitty thing here and they may one day do it again now that the precedent has worked out so well for them.