Nintendo Labo: What we know so far

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Leave it to Nintendo to be the quirkiest, most unique console developers of the big three. Announced this morning are a new bunch of accessories for the Nintendo Switch called Nintendo Labo. But these aren’t your typical console accessories. These are corrugated cardboard slats, with pre-cut segments that can be folded and interlocked to form different types of “Toy-Con” projects (a pun on Joy-Con).

Nintendo President Tatsumi Kirishima calls it a new way of playing. The Nintendo Labo’s demographic is targeted for kids and parents alike, who can use the assembly and interactivity as a bonding and fun moment.

The Toy-Cons are varied and correspond to the mini-games included in the Labo kits. It includes RC cars, a fishing rod, a mini house, a motorbike steering handle, and a 13-key piano. The other (larger) Labo kit forms into parts of a robot that the player can wear as a backpack, visor, and arms.

This is the sort of thing only Nintendo can think of. Based from the trailer above, folding and assembling looks to be tons of fun. The included Switch software contains instructions for assembly, and is said to be easy enough to do despite the complicated setup of the other Toy-Cons like the robot and the piano, according to The Verge in a demo of the Nintendo Labo. The manuals present the assembly steps complete with animation and a 3D interactive version of the cardboard projected on the Switch screen.

The Toy-Cons are constructed with varying degrees of difficulty and complexity. Easiest of which is the RC car, which only require folding a couple of parts and docking the Joy-Cons to it. The more complex Toy-Cons, like the Fishing Rod, employ more intricate machinery that involves strings and rubber bands pulling together parts in a seamless motion, which the Joy-Cons interpret as motion and button input. The Piano, on the other hand, uses the Joy-Con’s camera to recognize which piano keys are being pushed. The data is then relayed to the Switch and plays the corresponding sound.

The Nintendo Labo is a mechanical, low-tech implement that uses the full power of the Nintendo Switch. It’s a stark improvement from the less appealing 1-2 Switch set of minigames that merely demonstrates how the Switch works. This time, Labo integrates the gyroscope, accelerometer, camera, touch screen, and button input to create a highly interactive set of mini-games.

Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé is optimistic that the Labo will be successful, “I do think there is an opportunity for this to go quite broad from an age-perspective.” If it is, there’s a chance we could see more Labo kits geared towards the older demographic, and of course, more kits for the kids too.

Nintendo Labo will be available starting April 20, 2018, sold in two different kits: Variety Kit and Robot Kit, each with its own Switch software included in the bundle. The Variety Kit, containing 5 Toy-Cons, will retail for US$69.99, while the Robot Kit is priced at US$79.99.

In an age of virtual boxes, Nintendo gives us… real boxes to play with.