Nintendo's new idea 'Labo' may sound strange, but it's actually a perfect fit given the company's 128-year history

NintendoThis is Nintendo Labo, the cardboard construction housing a Nintendo Switch console.
  • Nintendo made a major announcement on Wednesday night when it introduced “Labo.”
  • Nintendo Labo is a set of two dozen cardboard sheets that can be transformed into various do-it-yourself contraptions, like the miniature piano seen above.
  • Labo is a brilliant and logical move for Nintendo, a 128-year-old company with a long history of making toys.

Nintendo surprised the world once again this week.

The Japanese gaming powerhouse announced a new product with a strange name: “Nintendo Labo.”

Stranger than the name, however, is the product itself: a cardboard construction kit for building gaming peripherals. Awhat?

It’s worth explaining up front what you actually do with Labo. It’s not just a toy you buy, but a construction set for toys that are used with the Nintendo Switch console. The sets start at $US70, and come with games.

Nintendo LaboNintendoWhat Labo looks like before construction: a bunch of cardboard.

Here’s how Labo works:

  1. After emptying the box, you take the game cartridge that it comes with and pop it into your Switch.
  2. A set of instructions guides you through the process – on your Switch screen – of assembling the various cardboard components into whatever you intend to make.
  3. Having created your cardboard device, you insert components of the Nintendo Switch game console into it and play the included game.

Here’s an idea of what that might look like, care of Nintendo:

Nintendo LaboNintendo

The project may seem strange, but it’s actually a perfect marriage of Nintendo’s history as a toy maker and its recent history as a video game powerhouse. The word “Nintendo” is synonymous with “video games,” and has been for nearly 40 years.

But the company’s actually far older than you may know – over 128 years old! – and much of its history had nothing to do with Italian plumbers fighting evil turtles.

The bulk of Nintendo’s history was spent as a playing-card manufacturer, up until the mid ’60s when it began creating toys. That toy division eventually morphed into one that focused on a burgeoning format – video games – in the late ’70s.

Nintendo toysNintendoSome of Nintendo’s history of products as a toymaker.

All of which is to say one thing: Nintendo Labo makes a lot of sense given Nintendo’s history.

It’s a toy. It’s a game. It’s something you build – that you create – and then play with. It can be drawn on, or covered in stickers, or accidentally stepped on. Maybe you’ll have to repair it with duct tape and, uh, an old soda carton. Maybe you use the box Labo came in!

Isn’t that kind of rad, actually?

On paper, Labo is a kind-of DIY, adaptable gaming peripheral, with custom games made specifically for the various permutations of that peripheral. In reality, it’s a custom game controller that kids get to build, fix, and own.

Here, Nintendo uses cardboard as a feature, not a flaw. Cardboard can be repaired easily! It also lends itself to modifications, which will assuredly result in some delightful, unexpected ways to play Labo games.

It also just looks cool. Can we just stop and marvel at this adorable little cardboard house?

Nintendo LaboNintendo

And yes, of course, Nintendo is selling decorations.

They’re $US10, and you’re gonna want some. There are stickers and stencils and tape in the customisation sets, and they’re exactly what you’d expect from Nintendo:

Nintendo LaboNintendoOf course I want Mario eyes on my Labo.

It’s in this way that Nintendo has casually surprised fans once again with a product that, at first, is confounding.

“Nintendo is selling a box full of cardboard for $US70 with some basic software!” one might argue. What Nintendo is actually offering with Labo is a relatively inexpensive, Lego-like experience on its wildly popular Nintendo Switch console. Better yet: The entry-level set, the “Variety Kit,” offers five different builds of varying complexities. Considering the cost of a Lego set nowadays, you’re probably not doing too bad by comparison!

Nintendo Labo is set to launch on April 20 – check out the introduction trailer right here for more:

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