While Nintendo sets off a major Wii U push with the arrival of Mario Kart 8 and with the system likely to enjoy a prominent role at E3 2014, it seems the company is nevertheless making logistical cost-saving decisions to ensure that the systems it does sell are produced as cheaply as possible. Part of this is prioritising popular models, which has seen the 8GB white model gradually phased out in the West — it's still around, but is far less prominent than the 32GB black model.
In Japan the opposite is true, especially as there's also a 32GB white variation in Nintendo's homeland that's never made it elsewhere — again, we suspect logistics and money saving are at the core of this. Intriguingly, it seems that Nintendo is going so far as the discontinue a series of bundles, some relatively recent, including all black models. Once these systems are sold out in Japan, they'll be gone forever.
Listed as discontinued on Nintendo Japan's hardware page are the original launch models, family bundles that include Wii Party U and New Super Mario Bros. U, along with Dragon Quest X and Monster Hunter 3G: HD Version bundles. The latter two being discontinued is arguably unsurprising due to them being third-party specials, though the removal of the family options is interesting. The options being actively promoted on the hardware page are Wii Sports Club offers or the core standalone system.
From a manufacturing and logistical perspective, and no doubt taking into account consumer preferences and buying habits in different regions, it makes sense for Nintendo to prioritise white models in Japan and the black equivalents in the West. Reader HCK, who got in touch to tip us off on this, states that the black models are very hard — almost impossible — to find at retailers in Japan. A look at Amazon Japan does show standard white models easily available, while black systems are typically out of stock or in very low numbers from third-party distributors.
It's a sign of the tough times the system's had that while the 3DS has an ever-expanding range of options, Nintendo is boiling down its Wii U offerings to a minimum — perhaps by the end of 2014 the trend can start to change.
Thanks to HCK for the tip.