There’s games afoot. If you’re a parent, or even just someone who bought a Nintendo Switch prepare for a new wave of perishables, which we’ll all look foolish using.
This week gaming giant, Nintendo, announced Nintendo Labo, a new line of interactive build-and-play experiences designed to inspire kids and those who are kids-at-heart. The announcement video (you can see below) showed off adults and kids using the portable hybrid Nintendo Switch gaming console in a variety of new but odd ways.
One instance saw someone build a tiny cardboard piano where players can remove the joy-con controllers from the system and dock them in cardboard Labo slots latched into your creation while the screen itself rests in the center. This estimated $1.13 cents worth of cardboard is not only supporting your $299 gaming machine, it’s actually getting it to emit piano sounds when you press down on the paper keys. As you play, the IR Motion Camera in the Right Joy-Con detects which keys are pressed and translates them into unique notes that are heard through the console. You can even take control of your very own motorbike by constructing a functioning set of handlebars, with a Joy-Con inserted in each side and the Nintendo Switch console cradled in the middle. Simply hit the ignition button, turn the right handle to engage the accelerator and watch it happen on the Nintendo Switch screen, as you race to new destinations. Other ways the Labo will be used involve mounting a cardboard shell to people and turning them into some kind of awful cosplaying Transformers punching robot, it appears we’ll also get more musical applications as a drum kick pedal was shown off, even a fishing rod was built that actually has yarn to reel in and out of the cardboard contraption.
There are different pricing tiers when it comes to what you’ll pay to try these experiences:
Variety Kit ($69.99MSRP*)
- Toy-Con RC Car: Insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into your newly built RC Car and control its movement using touch screen controls on the Nintendo Switch console. The HD Rumble feature in the Joy-Con controllers will cause vibrations that move the car in the direction you choose. Materials to construct two RC Cars are included.
- Toy-Con Fishing Rod: Construct the Fishing Rod with an active, rotating reel that is attached by string to a cradle holding the Nintendo Switch console. Catch one of many exotic fish shown swimming on the Nintendo Switch screen by casting your Fishing Rod and unwinding the reel to lower the hook. Once you feel a vibration from the Joy-Con inserted in the reel, you must tug the Fishing Rod upward and crank the reel quickly to try and complete the catch!
- Toy-Con House: By inserting various assembled blocks into openings in the sides and bottom of the House, you can interact with, play games with and feed a cute creature on the front-facing Nintendo Switch screen. Each differently shaped block is detected by the IR Motion Camera on the Right Joy-Con inserted on top of the House.
- Toy-Con Motorbike: Insert each Joy-Con into an assembled set of handlebars to drive a motorbike on the Nintendo Switch screen. Pressing the ignition button starts the engine, while twisting the right handle activates the throttle. Leaning your body or turning the handlebars left and right controls the motorbike.
- Toy-Con Piano: After assembling a beautifully crafted 13-key piano and inserting the Nintendo Switch console and Joy-Con, you can experiment with your own musical creations by pressing different keys. You can even insert different assembled knobs to create new sound effects and tones!Robot Kit ($79.99MSRP*)
- Toy-Con Robot: Create a wearable Robot suit, and insert the Left and Right Joy-Con into the designated slots on the backpack and visor to assume control of the robot, which is shown on the TV when the Nintendo Switch console is docked. Enjoy a variety of fun game-play experiences, including Robot mode, in which you can destroy in-game buildings and UFOs.
To say the least, Nintendo Labo will be for those who want to blend their real-life crafting hobbies with the digital world of video games. That’s far from a bad thing in an industry oversaturated by guns and online competition. It’s hard to deny these Labo things are cute and could very well be the next evolution from the plastic toys of Disney Infinity and Lego. Though in a way it’s going backwards. What’s hard to swallow is this product’s pricing. Unlike the Toys to life genre of games, you don’t pay for one starter kit with one piece of universal software then begin collecting every Labo. Each kit comes with its own software you’ll need to use the cardboard toys and even though no demos are yet available, it doesn’t appear as though the software is a full experience. It suffers from a similar issue “1-2 Switch” did when the system launched. It was a full-sized price tag for a piece of software that was nothing more than a glorified tech demo. I’m likely in the minority on this new concept. As the day after Labo was announced, the company’s stock price rose by 4.2% giving it one of its highest prices of the decade. Much of that spike was attributed to the unexpectedly positive social reaction from fans Labo was not intentionally marketed to.
No matter what claims of durability in the product Nintendo is making, the bottom line is their still pieces of cardboard. They can be broken or lose their integrity from normal wear and tear. For those with children or curious dogs, it could cost you around $10 a pop to replace parts.
Speaking ill or being wary of a Nintendo product doesn’t mean I dislike the company as a brand. Like many, I value its contribution to an industry which shaped many lives. However, I don’t think cardboard was the way to go on this. Had these been created from something more comparable to 3D printed material it might be worth paying a little bit more for. I don’t know what “special Nintendo cardboard” is, but I’m not convinced it could be as sturdy as Nintendo would like us to believe.
Labo is an interesting idea, but not something original. Remember years ago when kids could entertain themselves with nothing more than a few boxes to build a fort with or dig holes with a spoon. Nintendo is essentially selling you the experience of stealing from the UPS man, they’re just packaging it in a novelty that sparks our curiosity. There’s certainly nothing wrong with Nintendo trying to make money but between using one of the most fragile substances on the planet and packaging it with something that could end up being overpriced demoware; it seems a bit greedy.
Nintendo Switch owners can jump into the paper world of Nintendo Labo 4/20/18.