On January 17th, 2018, Nintendo announced a new way to play their system. Is it VR? It's got to be VR. Wait, it's not? Wait, stop. CARDBOARD?! Probably the wildest video game announcement of 2018, Nintendo Labo plays perfectly with the offbeat aspect Nintendo has with the Switch; something I secretly love about Nintendo. For awhile, I didn't know what to think about this strange new product, but now I have collected my thoughts and I can say that I am excited to see what is to come with this product, even though I am probably not going to buy it myself.
I'm sure you have heard this one: Sony is making VR, Microsoft is making 4K console gaming, and Nintendo is playing around with cardboard. It's rather funny to see how Sony and Microsoft is looking into the future of video games and technology; and then there is Nintendo trying to sell you expensive cardboard and say how it's the next step in the evolution of Nintendo gaming. There is some cool stuff happening with the controllers and their sensors with Labo, but it's safe to say that what they are doing isn't cutting edge. Despite this, I actually think what Nintendo is doing is far more interesting than what Sony and Microsoft are doing. To me, VR and 4K upgrades are cool, but they are par for the course. They are expected upgrades to their systems that aren't surprising. On the other side of the coin, you have Nintendo releasing something totally out of left field that isn't really innovating, but is something that is pure. Labo isn't about innovation, it's about creativity. It's like legos: it's just overpriced plastic bricks, but it's about what you can do with the bricks that makes lego so great. Not only that, Labo is teaching kids how to create. Sure, Sony trying to immerse you into the game or Microsoft making games run smoother and look better may be steps forward in the industry, but Nintendo mixing video games with a toy experience and allowing them to use their creative side to mix the two to me is much more important.
It goes without saying Nintendo Labo is meant for kids. How often can we say that about video game products now? Sure, games come out that are child-friendly and some only meant for children, but in my opinion I feel that the video game industry has almost forgotten about the kids. So to see a kid-friendly company come out with a product meant just for kids is heart-warming. So to see some people get mad about the fact that the product isn't meant for them makes me a little mad, because heaven forbid not everything is made for you. I am actually happy that this product isn't meant for everyone. I think that if this product was meant for adults and kids, then it would have to be only half as good for both parties instead of being great for one type of person. The Switch may prove me wrong in my thinking of who this product belongs to, but I think appealing to everyone works with everything. In the end, I am just happy to see kid-friendly video game products on the market.
No product is perfect, and Labo unfortunately hits some major snags mainly with the material and the price. When it comes to material, it really speaks for itself. On one hand, I like the cardboard for the creation aspect. Having people build the device instead of it shipping pre-made is what makes this product great. On the other hand, cardboard is fragile. Even something like water could destroy the product. I wish they used a better material that can also be built and played around with like cardboard. The other big issue with this product is the price. For seventy dollars, you get five different toy-cons, as well as the games to play with said toy-cons. Now seventy dollars for five games and cardboard may seem like a good deal, but with a material that can break easily and the games being rather one-note makes the prices seem like a bit much. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. For eighty dollars, you can get the robot kit. Just one kit with one game. Sure the kit is bigger and the game seems less like a demo and will probably have more replayability then the others, but I still think this is too pricey. On top of that, Nintendo is also selling a ten dollar customization kit that includes stickers, stencil kits, and tape(it's weird to say that a large video game company will be selling tape in the near future). This price is more fair, but it also seems like something that should be packed with the other toy-cons. In the end, I feel these aspects weigh down on the product, but not enough to dampen my spirits for it.
When thinking about the title for this entry, I wanted to describe my feelings for the product. This product is weird, it is gimmicky, and it is creative. But the best way to describe this product is the last thing I put on that list: it's Nintendo. Leave it to Nintendo to come out with a product like this, and whether you think that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. Not only that, I think this product speaks as a metaphor of Nintendo: it's not perfect and it isn't conventional to the video game industry, but it is something that shows how great the industry can be and is something that we need. It's Nintendo that makes video games a fun thing to do and not a business venture. It's Labo that shows us the creative side of video games and being pretty isn't always the best. Labo's cardboard and Nintendo's graphics may be crude, but it isn't about the looks. It's about the creativity, the personalities, and of course the games. I'm not saying Nintendo is an angelic company that does everything right and never does things for the money, but they are the ones that separate from the rest and delivers products that show how cool video games can be.
The biggest thing I wish this product did was temporarily turn me into a young child again so I could truly enjoy this product. This is not to say I wouldn't enjoy this product now, but I feel my enjoyment wouldn't nearly be as great as it would be if I was a child experiencing these products. Because of this, I probably won't pick up one of these sets. Despite this, I am still happy that someone else will find great enjoyment out of this product.
It may take some missteps along the way and will probably take some more in the future, but Nintendo Labo is a product that to me feels more wholesome and pure than most other things coming out in the video game industry. It isn't about looking pretty. It isn't about putting you into a VR landscape. It's about showing kids how creative you can be. It's about trying new ways of playing your console, not testing its graphical limits. It's about showing a unique way of improving the video game industry and saying that prettiness doesn't entirely mean improvement. And to me, all of this speaks to a product I think we need.