Nintendo Labo Taps Into Creativity, Imagination, Whimsy

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Over the years, Nintendo has been known to try new things in their video game business that are unexpected. With Nintendo Labo, that innovation has led to a new kind of interactive experience they hope will continue “the company’s mission of putting smiles on people’s faces.”

At its core, Labo allowed players to build cardboard creations and use them to interact with their Nintendo Switch game. Instead of buying a peripheral, Nintendo wants people to have the enjoyment of creating the game device add-on, connecting it to the Joy-Con controllers and Switch screen, and discover a new way to play.

Nintendo called the creations Toy-Cons, and each kit is made from sheets of cardboard, some simple, some complex, to play games for the Switch. The cardboard designs are specific to each game.

Labo will launch on April 20 with two kits. A Variety Kit showcases the flexibility of the Toy-Con design, allowing players to create remote control cars, fishing rod, house, motorbike, and piano. A Robot Kit lets players suit up in an interactive, cardboard robot suit made up of a visor, backpack, and controls for the hands and feet.

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Each kit will contain everything needed to put together the Toy-Cons and will have the appropriate software to enjoy the creations. A special customization kit hopes to expand the experience further with stencils, stickers, and colored tape to accent the Toy-Cons.

The Variety Kit is $69.99, and the Robot Kit is $79.99. The customization kit is $9.99.

Nintendo is aiming for a younger audience with Labo. From a video released by the company, the Toy-Cons are shown mostly with children, hoping to tap into their imaginations.

It would appear the company is attempting to fill what they see as a need to make imagination and pretend a reality. Instead of pretending your Joy-Con is a steering wheel, why not create a cardboard representation of one to pilot your motorbike?

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Is it creative? Yes. Nintendo continues to think outside the box, no pun intended, and look for creative and new ways for people to enjoy games.

The cardboard designs appear well made, but how long can they stand the rigors of kid play? Hopefully, children will be a bit more careful with something they have created with their own hands.

Some of the reactions on social media attempted to tap into the long-term marketing plans surrounding the Toy-Cons. Will McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes now be the toy surprise by having a design to let people transform the food carriers into a Toy-Con?

As with the Wii U touch screen and the flexibility of the Switch, the proof will be in the hands of the players. If the enjoyment factor of creation isn’t too complex or burdensome, Labo could be a surprise hit for the right audience. It certainly makes gaming peripherals recyclable.

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The thought process behind Labo will certainly be talked about and debated prior to the April launch. Those who had an early look and experience describe it as fun or enjoyable, but their praise seemed to be a bit restrained. No cries of “must-have,” but then again, they aren’t the target audience.

Nintendo Labo shows off the flexibility of the Nintendo Switch and utilized many of its features, including the infrared camera, to let players stretch their imaginations in a new way to play. It would be hard to imagine Sony or Microsoft going this route, but as a friend said when he saw the Toy-Con design and games, “It is the most Nintendo-ish thing that Nintendo has ever done.”