So, a week or so again, Nintendo released a trailer for a new piece of tech they have coming for the Nintendo Switch. This is Nintendo Labo. Nintendo Labo is a set of constructible cardboard accessories for the Switch. The Switch and its JoyCons are placed within this cardboard and this set-up allows for strange and wonderful uses of the Switch. The base set includes a piano, a fishing rod, and a house among other things. The response from those interested in the Switch has been mixed to say the least. However, I have great faith in Nintendo Labo for a few reasons.
Firstly, let’s look at Nintendo’s plan for Nintendo Labo. Notably, before the announcement of Labo, Nintendo President Tatsumi Kimishima gave an interview about the Switch in 2018. Notably, one of Nintendo’s goals for 2018 was engaging audiences who might not be interested in purchasing a Switch. This was probably the same audience that made the Wii such a massive success. It makes sense to capture that audience. I believe that Labo is a way to engage those who hadn’t considered a Switch at this point.
The second point is cardboard. I think two things play into this decision and they both play into the ones with the purchasing power. Parents. The thing I’ve found that worries parents who didn’t grow up with computer and screens is that the child might be spending too much time on the iPad or such. The tactile nature of Labo lets Nintendo position it as a toy, much as they did with the Nintendo Entertainment System following the video game crash of 1983. This allows the Switch and Labo to exist in sort of a liminal space. A toy when it needs to be a toy. A screen when it needs to be a screen.
The other thing about cardboard that works in Labo’s favour is weirdly, nostalgia. The term ‘playing with cardboard boxes’ is synonymous with playing with your imagination as a kid. Nearly every family needs white goods, and these white goods come in large cardboard boxes. Thus, why cardboard boxes create an imaginative environment. A cardboard box can be shaped and can be anything you want it to be. I think Labo taps into that compulsion while still being a product.
Now, there’s another aspect of Labo that I think appeals to parents as well. Often, especially with younger children, there is interest in finding toys that amuse but also educate. I think Labo works with that as well. The constructible nature of Labo means that parents can see the appeal in teaching young children about how to follow instructions and make something, similar to the educational benefit of Lego. It’s also been stated that Labo will teach users how the cardboard creation and the Switch will interact. These two prongs of Nintendo Labo will satisfy the need that parents have for toys to act as educational tools.
All this paired together hopefully fares well for Nintendo. After using the Nintendo Switch myself, I saw how the device could fit into my life. With this, a whole new audience could be eased into gaming. That’s what I see as the advantage for people like me, childless Switch enthusiasts. The more users that the platform has, the stronger the platform. The stronger the platform, the more support it gets. The more support, the more options for a prospective consumer on the Switch. Nintendo has the potential to be a great success and be another great addition to the Switch.
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