Two Thursdays ago (or January 18th for those of you reading this at a later date) Nintendo did a special reveal of a new kind of gameplay experience for the Nintendo Switch. Leading up to the reveal, the internet was abuzz with all manner of speculation. Were they finally announcing the Switch’s Virtual Console service? Could it be Smash? Was a fan-favorite series making its triumphant return to the stage?! What was this mysterious announcement that Nintendo touted as for children and those who were children at heart?! Please Nintendo, part the clouds on this majestic new game!
Now, unless you were gifted with clairvoyance or have a contact at Nintendo, what was announced took everyone by surprise. Nintendo LABO, a new cardboard creation game platform for the Switch where you would first build equipment out of included cardboard sheets, and then use those to interact with mini-games.
This was the very same Nintendo that just a week prior announced that Dark Souls was making its grand debut on the Big N’s new cash-machine, now they were announcing they were selling glorified cardboard? What could they possibly be thinking! They are thinking that they are geniuses and that this is one of the best moves they have made so far with the Switch, that’s what!
To say that the public reception of LABO is torn is a bit of an understatement. One side is happy to exclaim that LABO looks fresh and new, that it could be a blast! That no one but Nintendo would think up something like this. The other side cried foul at how Nintendo wants to charge people $70 dollars for cardboard (come on people, there’s a $60 dollar game with these too don’t forget!) creating meme’s that flooded Twitter.
LABO cements the Switch’s image that it is a platform that can appeal to any demographic out there. Placing this announcement a week after the Mini-direct that was tailored for the hardcore gamer crowd was a stroke of brilliant marketing, as it was plenty of time for people to be excited and discuss amongst themselves the idea of taking Dark Souls on the go, or the return of The World Ends With You. In the lead up to the announcement trailer for LABO, Nintendo even made it very clear that this was going to be an experience for the younger players and young-at-heart. If LABO does well, I can see this being a huge money maker for Nintendo, as it truly offers something that none of the other big game companies have even attempted. The gadgets that you make aren’t simple little trinkets but are full of mechanical goodies powered buy strings and rubber bands, knobs and do-hickies! What an ingenious way to get children thinking about engineering and mechanical systems at an early age while making it fun. How many kids will get into engineering and the sciences one day thanks to their exposure first with Nintendo LABO?
For me, the idea is novel and I can see the possibilities with it, but in general doesn’t really pull me in. The mechanisms you can create, the robot one more so, does intrigue me, but my adult shrewdness thinks more about how I don’t have room in my apartment to store something like that. The mini-game collection strikes me more as game concepts as opposed to a full blown experience worth my time. That all being said, I am absolutely thrilled and excited to get my hands on these. Why? It is all because of two little dudes, my little nephews. LABO doesn’t appeal to my “gamer” side, but it sure does strike a cord with my “cool uncle” side. The idea of being able to sit down with my young nephews and build these wondrous creations with them, and then bring them to life with my Switch has me giddy with excitement. I can’t wait to see their eyes light up when they see the inner workings of what they helped build and how it does what it does. Coloring and decorating the robot suit we built before I strap it on them and they tear down buildings with reckless abandon. Once the day is through and the little dudes have returned to their folks tuckered out, I will happily plop down on my couch and play some Dark Souls, at least until I pass out from handling two young boys for the day.