The newest retail bundle for the Nintendo Wii U won't have a Mario platform game in the box, but Mario does make his way into your home nevertheless. The new bundle, running at $299.99 forgoes any packed-in disc, instead including a pre-installed version of Mario Kart 8 directly on the console's hard drive. The bundle, or "ongoing configuration" as it's described in the press release, goes on sale today in the U.S.
The box will also include a Nintendo eShop download card for both sets of Mario Kart 8 DLC, so you'll have it all in one go.
The new Wii U configuration is notable for a few different things. First, while games on Wii U do tend to run a bit smaller than those on Xbox One or PlayStation 4, it is significant to see a pre-installed game as the only pack-in content on a console with just a 32gb hard drive. In an age of downloads and digital stores, and where 500gb drives on the other systems fill up in a snap, it's both a step forward and a slightly confusing message.
The step forward comes in the digital copy and DLC-focused pack-in. Why make someone put a disc in or install a game first thing after they setup their console and download console updates? This way, you can jump in and start playing a retail game with literally nothing else other than the console - it's a great step, and a great idea. Of course, it could also limit what people can download and install in the future, and that's the flip side of things.
Nintendo has been oddly in front of and behind the digital revolution simultaneously. With their small storage, it's hard to see how you could make a digital-primary or a digital-only switch on the Wii U. However, their selection in the Nintendo eShop, with every game that hits the console, some innovative DLC, and of course the virtual console library that looks back through Nintendo's history, makes it easy to find games you'll love to play without ever leaving your home or getting up to insert a disc. Rumors fly that Nintendo's next console won't incorporate an optical drive at all (of course, rumors flew about the Wii U doing that, too), and this could be viewed as a step in that direction, or at least a test to see what consumers think of not having a physical disc in their Nintendo box.