During the summer of 2012, Nintendo made great strides to modernize its digital gaming business. By offering Nintendo 3DS and Wii U games like New Super Mario Bros. 2 and New Super Mario Bros. U as downloadable titles on the same day, Nintendo tried to show that it has learned the error of its ways in neglecting the downloadable space. To date, though, downloadable add-on content for Nintendo’s games hasn’t lit the game industry ablaze. The Coin Rush add-ons for New Super Mario Bros. 2, for example, are an example of the most basic game additions. Challenge Mode add-ons have been released for everything from Dishonored to the original Metal Gear Solid. But with Nintendo being known for its unique games, the expectation has been that it would do something more grand.
New Super Luigi U, announced during the Thursday Nintendo Direct event, fits that bill. The downloadable add-on to New Super Mario Bros. U will – according to Nintendo President Satoru Iwata – completely re-imagine all 80 levels of the game to be played by Luigi alone.
This marks a departure from Nintendo’s past DLC content, which tends to focus on basic add-ons and social elements. New Super Luigi U instead completely overhauls the single player experience of the platformer, and extends the longevity of the game for those early Wii U adopters that picked it up.
It also shows that Nintendo doesn’t quite have the DLC development cycle locked into its operations yet. Downloadable content usually lands within a few months of a game’s release. Nintendo said that this New Super Mario Bros. U DLC is so substantial that it will take as much time to develop as a full game, and it won’t be out until later this year.
There is a troubling aspect to the announcement as well. For all of Nintendo’s unfriendly consumer practices—locking downloaded games to individual consoles, friend codes, etc.—it has rarely skimped on content. A common feature of recent Mario games, including Super Mario 3D Land, Super Mario Galaxy, and others, is unlocking Luigi for a second, more difficult campaign. That campaign was offered for free in those games, and included on the disc. New Super Luigi U is not the sort of content Nintendo would have charged extra for in the past.