Nintendo has long been the quirkiest major video game publisher, a company eager to buck industry trends in pursuit of fun. Last year, as competitors at Sony and Microsoft continued to turn consoles into living room PCs, Nintendo released a comparatively underpowered tablet that blurred the line between portable and home gaming, and turned it into a huge success.
Now, the company plans to follow up the red-hot debut of the Switch with a new initiative that taps into what Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima calls “new ways of playing” — and it involves a lot of cardboard.
Today, the company revealed a new initiative dubbed Nintendo Labo, which involves DIY cardboard accessories that can transform the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers into everything from a fishing rod to a piano to a full-on robot suit. These accessories are then used to control a variety of mini-games, essentially turning the Switch tablet into a tiny arcade. The goal of Labo is to get kids involved in playing games on the Switch in a more hands-on, tactile way.
It’s the kind of experience that seems like it could only come from Nintendo: clever, charming, and completely unexpected. “Labo is unlike anything we’ve done before,” says Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé. It could just be the thing to keep the Switch’s momentum going in its second year — but more importantly, it’s a whole lot of fun.
The Labo platform is defined by three key characteristics, according to Nintendo: make, play, and discover. The product itself comes in the form of a kit that includes a Nintendo Switch cartridge and a series of cardboard sheets, along with a handful of other building accessories like string and plastic connectors. After you pop the cartridge into the Switch, a series of on-screen instructions on the tablet take you through the steps for building each of the different accessories, which Nintendo is calling Toy-Con (a play on the Switch’s Joy-Con controllers). It’s a setup that is particularly well-suited to parents playing with their children; one person can handle the instructions, while the other builds.
teased this morning that it would be announcing a “new interactive experience for Nintendo Switch that’s specifically crafted for kids and those who are kids at heart,” few people probably guessed DIY accessories. But as strange as Nintendo Labo sounds at first, when you have it in your hands it makes a lot of sense. It feels quintessentially Nintendo — and could end up being a great companion to the Switch.