Just one week after the Nintendo Direct Mini, Nintendo teased another announcement. Promising a ‘new interactive experience for Nintendo Switch that’s specifically crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart’. With Nintendo that could have meant literally anything. What is actually meant was a surprise to most people: a new line of products called ‘Nintendo Labo’.
What are Nintendo Labo? They are a series of cardboard self-assembly kits that become that you insert your Switch screen or joy-cons inside to become toys or new control methods. These are called ‘Toy-cons’, which might well be the slam-dunk name of 2018 so far, and each one works with unique Switch software to offer unique experiences. The ‘variety kit’ contains the majority of the kits demonstrated in the trailer – the RC ‘car’, the miniature piano, the house, the fishing rod and the bike handlebars. The variety pack is going on sale at £59.99.
The offer initial offering is the ‘robot kit’. A cardboard wearable suit that seemingly lets you control a robot in a game. Hopefully it feels cooler than it looks. Its an excellent premise, but at £69.99 the variety pack – with its range of experiences – seems like it might be better value. Given the price of new games, though, it might well depend on how in depth some of these ‘games’ actually are to decide if they’re value for money. Both of these initial kits have a release date of April 27 in the UK.
Its a difficult concept to get your head around – particularly the part about spending £70 on cardboard. Watching the trailer, however, and looking at what’s in the first two kits really does make this seem promising. The kits look fun to assemble and the customization aspect shown towards the end of the trailer also seems appealing. Nintendo will sell kits for this purpose, though presumably DIY customization is a cheaper option. The sets look pretty robust for cardboard, but they are still only cardboard. Replacement kits will be available for a price, but apparently tape will also be viable solution. You can also register your interest for a workshop in London that will let you try Labo for yourself, with a deadline of the 1st of Feb.
Aside from just novelty value, Nintendo Labo does have some important aspects to consider. It might be the strongest indication in a while that the ‘toys to life’ aspect of marketing games has not disappeared fully – and this certainly seems a new and unique spin on these ideas. Similarly, ‘Gimmick’ controllers have been very effective – things like Guitar Hero and Rock Band and the unique control systems they required are perhaps the best examples. They offered an experience – a level of immersion- that would have been difficult to achieve with a standard controller. Nintendo are serial offenders when it comes to plastic peripherals: from DK Bongos through to the endless amount of plastic shapes you could attach to the Wii remote Nintendo have occupied a lot of space in teenage bedrooms. The short term downsides are huge pieces of plastic that are only used for one game. The longer term effects are pretty substantial amounts of plastic eventually making their way to landfills. Cardboard seems a fairly elegant solution to this – as well as making their assembly a selling point instead of an inconvenience.
With the Switch is selling faster than hot-cakes so this hardly needs to be a killer app, so its definitely nice to see Nintendo continuing to try new things. With a host of Labo visible in the trailer that have not been formally unveiled yet it seems likely there’ll be lots more Labo to come – as long as its successful.