You really never know what Nintendo’s going to do next. After hyping up an announcement yesterday for something that would “change the way you play” and that it would be aimed “at children and the young at heart”, Nintendo took the wraps off Nintendo Labo, a line of interactive build-and-play experiences that fuses cardboard model making with Nintendo Switch gaming.
You’ll have to check out the trailer for yourself to really grasp what it’s all about, but the general gist of it is giant cardboard kits that can be used to make peripherals of varying complexity for the Switch, including a fishing rod, functional keyboard, a camera, and even a god-damn robot suit.
Naturally, it took the internet about three seconds to become enraged that Nintendo had made something not specifically at them, but I think the rationally-minded can get on board with what looks to be an outstanding bit of kit for parents and children. Nintendo Labo flips gaming conventions on its head and takes the focus away from the device itself and towards an arts and crafts design.
The kits themselves look pretty varied, and the inner workings of the mech suit are a sight to behold. It’s like Lego Technic on steroids. Each kit uses an assortment of flat-packed cardboard sheets and elastic bands, turning into fully functioning devices that can interact with the Switch through the Joy-Con controllers’ motion and IR tracking.
The most basic of the devices is a remote-controlled car and uses the rumble features to drive around rooms, and players can build competing cars to take part in battles on your living room floor. More complex uses include the piano, which detects key depressions to play notes, and even allows the tone to be adjusted. It’s crazy stuff, and there even seems to be some light programming elements in there for constructing some of the figures.
Naturally, Nintendo being Nintendo, all this does come at a considerable cost. The starter set includes five builds and the Nintendo Lobo game itself and will set you back $70, while the premium-tier mech set will cost you a whopping $80. Considering most games retail for $60 new it’s not terrible, but it’s certainly a premium. On their part, Nintendo has said the cardboard designs will be hosted on their website so you can make your own if you want to. Which brings me to my final concern - the durability of these cardboard builds. While it’s certainly more environmentally friendly than the heaps of Rock Band drum sets littering landfills across the globe, it comes at the cost of being a little on the weak side. I can’t imagine a kid (or adult) is going to have a working drum pedal for long.
Regardless of these problems, this looks like something that is going to sell absolute gangbusters. The current Switch demographic is predominantly 30-year-old males, and this could go a long way to ensuring younger fans want to get in on the action too.
Both of the first two Nintendo Labo kits will be out on April 20th worldwide.
Now, does anybody know where I can foster a kid for a week? I need to justify this somehow.