Nintendo releasing Labo this Friday, I discuss the potential of the product, the price of creativity, and the positive future without it.
If you’re following gaming technology, you most likely heard about Nintendo’s latest project: Labo (which I believe the pronunciation to be Lab-oh). If you already have a Switch, players can purchase perforated and decorated cardboard to create a Toy-Con, which is a creation involving use of the Nintendo Switch. From the trailers revealed, Toy-Cons could be things like a backpack, goggles, or an RC car. I am not a complete Nintendo head, but I have been told by many fans that this is unlike the realm of products the company typically releases.
The cardboard playset for Switch is in line with other do-it-yourself (DIY) components in this generation. Most notably, the Raspberry Pi is a small-sized computer which allows people to play with computing for personal and other projects. Of course the biggest demographic targeted with Labo is gamer families, so I expect the starter kits to not be too complex. That being said, players can also be challenged to create their own Toy-Cons. All ages can see a use in Labo.
The intention behind Nintendo Labo is a wonderful and meaning idea that should be promoted across the board for gamers of all ages: although we have technology presented in front of us, that should not stop our children and everyone from having playing through building. Labo demonstrates STEM, community, and endless possibilities. The argument of “kids these days” obsessed with their phones, computers, and gaming devices is there, and obviously this would encourage players to flex different areas of their brain. But let me twist this argument in another direction. This current generation obviously has grown around refined technology embedded in their lives, so let’s teach them to expand the technology they have today and challenge them to have fun building over it.
Can we have fun through learning and construction?
The answer is yes!
Nintendo Labo is met with many other positives based on its temporary form and material. The magic of the product is you’re not supposed to keep it as a piano for long! Are you tired of the fishing pole form? That’s ok too, because you can continue creating different forms and reusing it. I want to applaud the use of cardboard. Although this type of component can be flimsy or weaken by water, its basic form is a great way to start someone off. If you’re creating something for the first time and you mess up, you learn from it and have the assurance that it was only cardboard. Using the material also adds an element of nostalgia and imagination for the player. Did you ever spend your childhood pretending some delivery box in your living room was a boat? Labo appeals to both logic and emotion, which Nintendo has successfully done in its past. You are never to old to play make believe with physical objects in front of you.
I see a lot of ways Nintendo Labo can be successful, but as a product I see the downfalls. The clearest detraction for Labo is its price, sitting at $80 to purchase a starter kit. It is completely understandable if people don’t want to immediately invest in cardboard at this price. Getting the Labo also means you need a Switch, so gamers who don’t have one are out of luck unless they purchase both. With the price in mind, players will need to decide if $80 of disposable material can be compensated for the experience. How long will the magic last for you before you throw your first Toy-Con away? People will want to create new things, and from there you either reconcile it to make more parts, leave it in your basement for storage, or throw away your $80.
It’s hard to say what will come of Nintendo Labo, and you very well know that competitors will try to create their own versions afterwards that are compatible with other types of technology. Instead of seeing PlayStation or Xbox trying to create their own, I see mobile phones coming out first in this race. Nintendo will be forced to lower their price, and as a company that may not create the best profit.
I actually see the this as a huge benefit and an important stepping stone to the continuing conversation of making innovation fun. And really, that’s what Nintendo Labo is all about.
Even if Nintendo does not reach the success desired, I see a lot of good coming out of it and people contributing to constructing your own Toy-Cons with our without Labo’s continuation. Companies are going to try and sell their own cardboard kits at a cheaper price, but it allows for more ideas for creation that Nintendo may not have come up with the first time inn their starter kits. The DIY community is strong and promoting of cheap (and even free) options across the board, so we’ll see a surge of ideas sparking from websites such as Instructables, Pinterest, and YouTube. There could even be stock in collaborating with other toy companies, such as Lego, who already specialize in hands-on building. After cardboard, maybe we’ll even move onto other materials that people can play with. What’s to say that something like flexible cardboard is possible for this product in the future? If this product opens the gates for competitors and creators to release affordable and different materials, I am all for it.
The future of playing through creation is bright, whether Nintendo is there or not. I support the purpose of Labo, even if the product itself has short longetivity.
Let’s continue to use our hands to build towards a better tomorrow.
Nintendo Labo comes out on April 20th.