Everyone’s talking about Nintendo Labo, but what exactly is it? What can it do? Is it worth the hype?
Well, let’s take a look!
What Is It?
Short Answer: Labo is a DIY Switch peripheral, allowing you to build a series of toys and accessories. Imagine if IKEA started making video games to accompany their furniture.
Perhaps the most mystifying part of Labo is how to describe it. How do you put something like this into words?
In the simplest terms, Labo is a series of do-it-yourself playsets that uses the Switch as a base. Using simple items like cardboard sheets and rubber bands, you can create an electronic piano, a small robot that moves with the joy-con’s vibrations, or even a basic VR experience. Nintendo calls these creations “Toy-Cons,” and if you ever spent time building simple machines with LEGO or K’nex, then this may sound familiar.
What sets Labo apart is its versatility and integration with the Switch. The use of cardboard seems comical at first glance, but it allows for a great deal of flexibility. You can make almost anything with enough cardboard, and something you can bend and cut will always be more versatile than bricks or sticks. This also (theoretically) keeps the price down, but we’ll discuss that later.
What Can It Do?
Short Answer: Labo uses the Switch’s core features in unconventional ways; using infrared detection, HD rumble, and motion control to bring users an innovative experience.
I expected these kits to come with companion games, but Nintendo seems determined to push every feature of the Switch to its limit.
For example, the piano uses the joy-con’s infrared sensors to detect which key you press and plays back the correct note, simulating the experience of playing a “real” instrument. The RC “car” (it’s closer to a bug) uses the joy-con’s HD rumble feature to achieve locomotion. These ideas are surprisingly simple, using the existing features of the Switch in unique ways.
Nintendo has always experimented with strange features and peripherals on their consoles. The results have been hit or miss, with many being poorly implemented or underutilized. In contrast, Labo seems to compliment and enhance the Switch’s core features, showcasing what the hardware can do.
How Much Does It Cost?
Short Answer: Nintendo has advertised two packs so far: a bundle pack costing $69.99, and a VR robot kit, costing $79.99.
This is the big question on everyone’s mind, and the answer isn’t as clear as you might think. As of now, Nintendo has announced two separate kits. One is a variety pack that contains most of the items featured in the commercial and is priced at $69.99. The other is the robot VR kit, which costs $79.99. Before we talk about the value behind these kits, there’s a bigger elephant in the room we need to discuss.
How much will future kits cost?
The two products listed above tell us little about the “normal” cost of a Labo kit. Will future packs feature multiple Toy-Cons for the same price? Or is this merely a one-time bundle? Is the robot kit’s price a result of its complexity? Or will future kits be similarly priced? For that matter, how complex and advanced will the “average” Toy-Con be? Will most of them come with Switch games, like the robot kit? Or should we expect more basic toys like the piano and the RC car?
For now, only time will tell.
As for the value, it may seem absurd to pay $70 for cardboard and rubber bands, but you’re also paying for the software that goes along with it. Even so, I still think the price is a bit steep. If a full game comes with a particular kit, you’re essentially paying $60 for the game and $10-$20 for the cardboard. That’s not bad, but if the kit is more of a “toy” like the RC car or the piano, then this price becomes far less reasonable. Again, it all comes down to the content provided in future kits.
How Durable Are The Pieces? What Happens If They Break?
Short Answer: We don’t know how sturdy the pieces are yet. If they break, they’re replaceable.
My only real concern about Labo is its durability. Gamers aren’t used to hardware breaking down quickly, especially not from Nintendo, a company famous for its insanely durable devices. Unfortunately, we won’t know how durable the cardboard is until we can test it out ourselves.
If you’re worried about your hardware breaking down, Nintendo ensures us they’ll offer replacement parts. The cost of these replacements is unknown, but apparently gluing or taping things back together is a viable option as well.
Our Thoughts On Nintendo Labo
A lot of people wonder if Labo is the right move for Nintendo, or if it’s just a waste of time. Personally, if Labo released at any other time, or under any other console, I wouldn’t be nearly as excited about it. Nintendo is always willing to try something new and weird, but too often does their insistence on being different cloud their judgment. I often criticize Nintendo for this behavior, as I feel their experimental nature gets in the way of making solid games.
But with the early success of the Switch, I can’t complain about Labo. If Nintendo keeps pumping out games like SUPER MARIO: ODYSSEY and THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD, then they can make all the cardboard toys they want.
As for Labo itself, I think this is a perfect example of how to do peripherals right. Peripherals have always been bogged down by limitations. Often, they’re not versatile enough to be used in multiple games. Other times, they’re simply too expensive to justify a purchase. The use of cardboard cut-outs could easily solve both of these problems if Nintendo is willing to do so.
For now, I’m cautiously optimistic about Labo, and can’t wait to get my hands on it.