This week sees the re-release of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze on the Nintendo Switch, giving millions more people the opportunity to catch an enjoyable platformer they might have missed when it was first released in 2014 on the Wii U. Surprisingly, though, Wii U owners who want to purchase that original version of the game can no longer do so through Nintendo’s North American online eShop.
While Reddit user bgold101 alerted the Internet at large to the Wii U version’s online removal on Monday, the title appears to have come down well before that. Captures from the Internet Archive show the “Buy Digital” option for Tropical Freeze on Nintendo’s website disappeared sometime between October 22, 2017 and February 25, 2018, suggesting Nintendo made this move well ahead of Friday’s Switch re-release. (Incidentally, the Switch version of Tropical Freeze was publicly announced on January 11). And while there are scattered reports that the game has returned to the eShop today, Ars has confirmed it is not available either via the website or the Wii U’s own online store as of press time. Nintendo has yet to respond to a request for comment from Ars.
Timing aside, it’s odd that Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze would be removed from the Wii U eShop at all. Games like Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon are still available for Wii U download, even though new versions of both games are also available on the Switch. Users who previously purchased Tropical Freeze on the Wii U report they are still able to re-download the game through the “Your Downloads” history page, so the digital files haven’t disappeared entirely from Nintendo’s servers (unlike sought-after PS4 horror demo P.T.‘s removal from PSN, for instance). While legal issues like music rights sometimes force games off of digital storefronts, there’s little reason to think such issues affect a wholly original first-party game from Nintendo.
The Wii U version of Tropical Freeze is still being sold as a new physical disc at the bargain price of $20 (compared to $60 for the Switch re-release), so new players still have access to the original version of the game. The eShop removal, though, is yet another sign that when it comes to purely digital games, there’s no guarantee that what’s available one day will be available the next.
[Edit: The original version of this story did not specify that this only applies to the North American version of the eShop at this time. Ars regrets the oversight]