Labo: are you a kid at heart?

When Nintendo tweeted yesterday to keep an eye on the surprise announcement they would be making in a few hours’ time, the fans were hoping for a surprise launch game in the 3DS or Switch eShop. The fact that they teased us with: “a new interactive experience, for Nintendo Switch that’s crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart”. I read and re-read the statement, and I just knew it had to be something out of the ordinary.

This is Nintendo we are talking about after all, a company that surprised its fans more than once in the past. Not always successful, mind you. Think Virtual Boy, the tabletop video game device released in 1995. You had to put your head to an eyepiece to see the display and it looked really clunky. It was, however, the first console that was capable of displaying a stereoscopic 3D effect. The device was no success, but it’s so typical of Nintendo: they do go where no one else goes in their development.

Well, well, we did indeed get something out of the ordinary this time! I bet a lot of people were disappointed at Nintendo Labo: no game, no plastic gadget like steering wheels or a tennis racquet. Nintendo has reminded us that the company started out as a toy maker, because Nintendo Labo will bring us cardboard kits. The kits contain cardboard sheets, that you can craft into a piano, a house, a fishing rod and even into a robot suit! It might look simple, but once you add the Switch and its Joy-Cons into the mix, the magic starts to happen. Check out the video to see how it works.

Reporter for NintendoLife, Damien McFerran got the chance experience it first hand, here is what he wrote:

The cardboard creations are called ToyCon, and the most simple one to build is RC Car. This one takes around 10 minutes to make and uses the HD Rumble of two Joy-Con to move around the room. You control the action with the Switch touchscreen and you can even view the world through the right-hand Joy-Con’s IR camera, sending the bug on secret missions inside unexplored nooks and crannies. When you were a kid, did you never want to spy on your family in the other room? I remember my daughter had a sort of spy-kit years ago and she had so much fun with it, trying to listening in on us.

The piano is more ingenious: everything is made from cardboard, right down to the keys which use folded flaps to spring back into place when pressed. The Joy-Con slots into the back, with its IR camera pointed at a small slot just above the rear of the keys. When one is pressed, it pops into view through the slot and reveals small strip of reflective tape – the camera picks this up and plays the relevant note. The same visual trick is used to change the tone of the keyboard, adjust the pinch, record patterns and much more besides; you can even use the slot on the top of the piano to insert a cut-out (created by yourself) which changes the sound of a keypress based on the shape of cardboard.

Another thing that will appeal to kids is the customizing part: getting creative with coloring pens and craft stuff to make the ToyCon your very own. Sounds very, very interesting.

There are concerns too of course, you no doubt envision torn cardboard and broken toys. Cardboard design patterns for the various games will freely be provided online, meaning that you can replace or build parts with just about any material, provided you’re crafty enough.

Will there be enough games that use this way of playing? No doubt Nintendo will release a couple of accompanying games to make the most of the ToyCons, and success might even lead to third party support. By the way, IGN France confirmed that Labo Kits won’t actually be required to play Labo games, the cartridge or download will be all that you need.

The opinions of gamers about this new development are divided. Sure, it’s a wacky idea, but on the other hand it’s something that can only come from Nintendo. They’ve proven that they can once again surprise people. Question is: are you a kid at heart? Or do you think your kids will get a kick out of this?

The Labo kits are set to release in America on April 20. The Variety Kit, which contains all designs shown except for the Robo suit, is up for pre-sale at Amazon for $ 69,99. The Labo Robot kit for $ 79,99. Europe will see both kits in store on April 27.


  1. I like it, and I can see how kids will love it. Hopefully, though, Labo won’t be like other Nintendo gadgets that had a short time in the spotlight, such as the Balance Board. Can Nintendo give Labo a constant stream of quality releases and new ideas to keep it fresh and interesting? Only time will tell.

    1. Good point, and they really should make replacement parts easily accessible. I like it too, though I’m not sure if I’ll actually go for it myself. Depends on the game I guess.

  2. I like it too and am sure my lil girl will as well. But the Robot kit is a little expensive, Will decide when it actually release ( like all the new announce game now a days. Tired of having hopes up. )

    1. Yes, I can see how having your child wanting all the new games and gadgets can be a challenge. The price is high, but it depends on the quality of the game included. If there’s a game included indeed!

  3. That’s a neat, quirky and clever concept… Although I’d lie if I said I will invest a single penny in this. 😛

    On a totally unrelated note, your site banner features this cute girl in a white and dark blue outfit. Could you tell me which game she hails from? 🙂

  4. Okay, here’s some problems. First, like in another article you wrote, the 3DS was supposed to survive alongside Switch, because that was being marketed towards kids. This means they’ve now got 2 devices, both 2DS (and/or other 3DS models) as well as Switch targeting the same age demographic. Second, the overwhelming majority of Switch owners are over 18. In fact, more than half their owners were between 18 and 35, as Nintendo themselves reported. This means this is being targeted toward the very small number of Switch owners. Well, then you say, well they’re trying to expand the demographic. Again, I point out that same demographic is what the 2DS is aimed toward. Nintendo has officially pinned the 3DS against the Switch, as no longer can they use the excuse that one is aimed at children, the other adults, because now both have something that makes kids want it. They’re either going to have to re-position the 3DS line to be aimed at young adults to expand that, or they’re going to have to phase out the 3DS line, and with Pokemon expected on Switch in the near future, I see the latter happening.

    1. I think you are right, I don’t think the 3 DS line will survive for much longer. Look at the number of games that are expected on it in the first part of 2018. Not many. And with Pokémon probably coming to Switch they’ll attract a whole new audience.
      Did you hear that you can’t attend the local Labo Workshops at Nintendo without bringing a kid?

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