Given the stellar reputation Nintendo of America customer service has gained over the years, it was a little surprising to hear reports in the initial days of the Wii's life that if your system needed repair, and you chose the always-popular advance replacement option, any Virtual Console games you'd purchased would not make it to your new system.
(A bit of background for those not familiar with NOA's repair options: If your system is defective and within warranty, you are generally given the option of whether you want to opt for depot repair or advance replacement. Depot repair involves you shipping your system to a Nintendo repair depot, using a prepaid label, where it is examined, repaired or replaced, and returned to you. Advance replacement will, when secured by a credit card, get you a new system right away, and a prepaid box to return the old system in. Neither option costs you any money, though if you don't return your old system for advance replacement, you'll be charged replacement costs.)
At the time, it seemed the problem could simply be the result of Wii-mania overtaxing customer service resources. However, a report in our own forums of the same thing happening a handful of weeks ago—and the depot repair option was potentially lengthy, with the CSR giving him a four-week window for his system to be returned to him (though this is an extreme example; we've also had reports of a two-week turnaround for people who have chosen this option)—prompted us to investigate: to see if this restriction on keeping your Virtual Console games was, in fact, policy. We asked Nintendo a few questions on the matter to try to clear this up.
N-Sider: Is it true that if someone who, in the course of warranty repair, opts for advance replacement and obtains a refurbished system with a new serial number, their rights to the Wii Shop downloads they already paid for are lost forever? What about their remaining, paid-for Wii Points?
Nintendo: Consumers who wish to retain downloaded games, Wii points or any other Virtual Console content are offered the repair option. Advance Replacement is only offered when the consumer indicates Virtual Console content is not a consideration.
N-Sider: If someone opts to send their system in for repair instead, and the repair depot finds their problem unfixable and gives them a refurbished system instead, will their right to their paid Wii Shop downloads and/or Wii Points be transferred to the second system?
Nintendo: When a consumer sends their system in for repair we ensure that their Virtual Console account remains intact, whether we send the original hardware or a remanufactured system back to them.
N-Sider: If someone acquires a different Wii console down the road—after their warranty expires, or perhaps just because they want a different color console, will they have any option for transferring their right to paid Wii Shop downloads or Wii Points to the new system?
Nintendo: The consumer can contact Consumer Service to determine the best options at that point.
So, if you have indeed purchased any Virtual Console games, and your system is in need of repair, you will have to make a hard choice. You will effectively throw your paid downloads away if you choose to take advantage of the advance replacement option—or you will have to do without your system for a little while if you want to save them. And even if your system is in tip-top shape now, and if you haven't purchased any Virtual Console games yet, you still need to make a choice: do you want to take the loss-or-wait risk down the road, or just ignore the Virtual Console entirely for now?