While Microsoft and Sony continue to push the line between video games and reality, they are wholly missing the mark on what people want. Enter Nintendo to show them how it is done with a whole lot of cardboard.
On January 17th Nintendo introduced the first peripheral for the switch, the Labo. The Labo is cardboard with the ability to interact with a switch game. There are two current versions for sale, one with a variety of everything from fishing rods to pianos. This allows players to not only have more depth in simple fun games but also allows children to work on simple craft projects. This includes all of the cardboard you need and a switch cartridge that will work with it for 69.99. The other option is the more expensive, complex, but in my opinion cooler option: The Robot Kit. This is a backpack, and what appears to be a cardboard VR headset with controllers, but will interface with your switch to allow you to control the character. This one is available for 79.99 and both will be available for sale April 20th.
This innocent peripheral represents everything that Nintendo has been doing right so far with the switch. While other companies boost their graphics and technical specs, Nintendo has focused on fun and simplicity with the Nintendo Switch. The cardboard allows for players to step away from video games and craft something of their own, making it a perfect project for children. The added ability to play with what you just created in a virtual space makes it even more appealing. For me, it looks like a sort of Virtual Reality Lite, allowing for the inclusion of real-world props and camera sensors to create an extra layer of depth within your game.
Meanwhile, things like Virtual Reality and high-end consoles have become more and more exclusive to those who can actually afford it. While 79.99 seems steep for some cardboard, it is important to keep in mind it comes with a switch cartridge, which usually goes for 40-60 dollars. The simplicity in design of recent Nintendo products has allowed them to keep it cheaper than their competitors, which appeals to the family aspect of their design. I can see families having fun constructing their toys, and then playing games together with a joy that the Xbox One X’s 4K visuals just don’t provide.
Many people have expressed concern as to Nintendo’s ability to produce something on this scale with events like the NES Classic shortage or false scarcity with Amiibo weighing heavy on their minds. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the Labo will be cardboard, which is very easy to mass produce. Nintendo is also a toy maker first and foremost, and I believe they feel most comfortable with simple and creative peripherals.
As a toy, the Nintendo Labo appears to be an amazing product, that can give children fun outside of digital worlds. As a business tactic, it shows Nintendo’s priority of fun over impressive graphics. Together this is the perfect storm Nintendo needs to bring attention towards its products. I hope it will encourage competitors to make something with fun before wow factor, but I don’t trust them with my cardboard.