It was early Wednesday when Nintendo confirmed they would make an announcement about a new experience later in the day, one aimed towards kids or kids at heart. The tease puzzled plenty of journalists, analysts, and those among the general audience who keep up with gaming news. They recently did a good job showing software titles coming to Switch in the immediate future on the recent Nintendo Direct Mini, even if quite a few of them are multiplatform titles or ports of Wii U games. But that implied this announcement wouldn’t be for anything aimed towards the core gaming audience.
There were several guesses as to what this could be, ranging from Nintendo reintroducing a series of games aimed towards the more casual audience (like the Touch Generation or Wii titles), or the long-awaited reveal of the Vitality Sensor. The actual answer turned out to be another one of Nintendo’s trademark unpredictable out-of-left-field inventions: Nintendo Labo.
The Nintendo Labo is a unique construction kit that gives users the potential to construct a number of creations, including a 13-key piano, a fishing rod, or motorbike handles. These Toy-Cons can be combined with the Switch and used with software, including music titles with the piano, fishing games with the rod, and racing titles with the handles. The introductory video shows how a few other creations can be made, including one that can turn a person into a destructive mecha, and other creations like a house with a button used with a mystery game that also uses the touchscreen.
The package will come with detailed instructions to show anyone whose creative juices with cardboard is lacking how to make them — which goes for most of us. They can also be distinguished from the Labo creations of others through the usage of decals and stencil-guided coloring in the Customization Set. You can’t say this isn’t a unique idea, but as is the case with several other innovative kits and devices in the gaming world — especially those from Nintendo — the gaming audience is divided over its potential.
It was difficult to find anyone who could wrap their head around the entire thing, even after watching the above-linked video a few times. But they came around to it after they started to envision the innovative gaming possibilities that could be used with it, reminiscent of the best experiences on Wii and DS. This especially applied to those who have children, many of which were reportedly captivated by it after several parents showed them the video. Others were virulent in voicing how dumb they think this is, and claimed Nintendo is once again catering to those who like gimmicks. Their reactions were and are as cartoonish as you could expect from specific gaming types on the internet.
Me? I’m leaning towards the former audience. I won’t be in the market for one anytime soon, and it’s clearly aimed more towards “kids” than “kids at heart.” But I’ll keep an eye on it to see how Nintendo’s future titles will use it, especially the Robot Pack, because there’s plenty of potential here if developers are willing to put in the effort.
While plenty of nerds have kids, several of them who don’t will register and brink their friends’ or relatives’ kids so they can get in. I’d be surprised if many of them haven’t already registered.
The Nintendo Labo will release in America and Japan on April 20th, and in Europe on April 27th, and all the contents mentioned above will be available in three different packages. The Variety Pack will let owners create a house, fishing rod, piano, motorbike, and two RC cars, and will be available for $69.99. Anyone who wants to be a human mech will have to purchase the Robot Pack, which will retail for $79.99. Both will come with software the Labo can be used with. Yes, they do release on 4/20 in America, and one of the packs is $69.99. Someone at Nintendo has a good sense of humor.
I hope no one is surprised they aren’t providing all the options in one package. They’re fully aware of how appealing this idea could be for the younger audiences, and want to make a good return on investment on it if this takes off. It’s possible they could provide bundles down the line, though.
The Labo could be Nintendo’s newest bet at creating experiences only possible with their hardware, and while Switch is already selling as well as Wii, the success with the younger casual audience could be replicated here. That will depend on whether Labo resonates with more kids and their parents than nerds, but it could take a while to determine whether it’s a success — perhaps after the next holiday season.