Genius? Trash? Here's our verdict on the new Nintendo Labo

Shut up and take my money, mostly

Genius? Trash? Here's our verdict on the new Nintendo Labo
| Nintendo Labo

Last night Nintendo revealed the Labo, its cardboard kits for building your own toys that work with the Switch.

Ostensibly aimed at younger games, the Nintendo Labo gives you the materials to build cardboard "controllers" that you can use for a series of mini-games. Construct a piano or a fishing rod or a robot for your Switch. Sound good? Hell yeah. We want it NOW.

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Our experts were quick to deliver their hot takes on the announcement. While the Pocket Gamer gang includes die-hard Nintendo fans, it also includes terrible cynics who hate every newfangled gizmo. However, the excitement was largely universal...

Dave Aubrey (Guides Mastermind)

Nintendo Labo is one of the most fascinating and concerning things I've seen in a while, as a Nintendo fan.

I mean, am I going to have to buy literal pieces of cardboard? There's a decent possibility. But despite how absurd it seems, after sleeping on it, I can't help but feel it makes sense, almost like a model kit for your video game console.

Instead of putting together a Gunpla mech or a model car in order to put on the shelf forever, you're building tools for playing games, physical manifestations of controls and gameplay mechanics. To say it'll be fun is an understatement. But my main concern right now is how much fun it'll still be once the kit has been crafted, and the game has been played. Oh also I'm probably gonna break it, so I'm hoping they include duct tape in the kit.

Jon Mundy (Features Wordsmith)

I wasn't expecting Labo (who was?) but it makes perfect sense to me. Nintendo has always been a toy maker at heart, ever since it started out making playing card games in the late 1800s. It literally became a toy company in the 1960s.

More recently we've had the ROB robot peripheral in the 1980s and of course Amiibo – not to mention all the spin-off toy merchandise in between. Besides which, Nintendo's games are the very definition of digital toys: always bright, fun, tactile and child-friendly.

Whether I actually buy any Labo stuff is another matter. It's rather expensive, and seems to be targeted specifically at younger kids. But Nintendo has swayed me countless times before...

Harry Slater (Deputy Dawg)

I remember when my joy for mainstream gaming died. It was during a Microsoft E3 press conference. I slumped in my armchair at home, watching a parade of meaningless grey and brown things. Sport, man-shooters, more man-shooters, a game we’ve all played a thousand times on a different console. It was like a plain memo saying that imagination and big business had decided to end their partnership and go their separate ways.

But yesterday I smiled. I smiled at the sheer audacity of Labo. At its perfect, warm-hearted nonsense. At how it joins together making and playing in ways that have been all but abandoned. I remembered set-ups I made as a child, and dissecting my Master System 2 to see how it worked. I remembered joy.

Innovation doesn’t have to be in pixel counts or the number of enemies on the screen. Nintendo has jumped outside of the box, and landed in another box, with such aplomb that I find it almost impossible not to be swept up in the possibilities. And that can only be a good thing.

Emily Sowden (News Hunter)

I find the concept of Nintendo Labo utterly enthralling, though its practicality may be something of a different issue, especially in the longevity of the product itself. Ever since we were little and were drawn to empty boxes like a cat to a (er) box, we knew there was something great about the material and by Ninty bringing cardboard back to the gaming world in style, it's a nice little nod to the past for us grown-ups.

For kids, this must be like a dream come true. Cars, robots, pianos, fishing reels, jeez it's brilliant in its own right. I mean, it'd have to be the strongest, most durable and waterproof cardboard in the whole world for it to be worth the price, but we can dream that it's stronger than steel, right?

Would I'd buy it for myself? It's a hard no, but Labo's not aimed at people like me. My engineering boyfriend on the other hand would probably have an absolute riot deconstructing and constructing the models, so it's all about taste and what you find fun. It's innovative and a brilliant idea, but I don't know if it'd be worth the price in the long run.

Chris James (Mighty Overlord)

As a parent of a seven-year-old who is already au fait with cobbling together cardboard creations for termly "creative homework" projects, I think Nintendo Labo is genius.

I can see a chunk of father and son time messing around with this, he'll be super excited and my other half won't be too annoyed that it's just more "screen time" - the Switch has already partly won her over thanks to Just Dance, so this is another win.

So for family time and for kids creatively exploring then this a 100% win.

The only caveat there is the price. At $69.99 it's another pricey addition to what is already an expensive catalogue of software and hardware add-ons and may be outside the "impulse purchase" range that most kids stuff falls in. That said it isn't too much different to the average new cartridge and you get five kits (or big robot kit) and the software, so if games are selling then I guess this could too.

Could this foreshadow Switch's coming into schools? There's already tablets and creative games like Minecraft being used as a staple and this could easily fit in alongside those.

In terms of non-family folk, I can see a portion of the hardcore Nintendo fans picking it up for completism and sheer intrigue. But I'd imagine a much wider audience of "gamers" will skip it for now. There's already a very high quality catalogue of games to enjoy and the prices aren't really going down. So I'd expect overall the sales won't be on the same level as the top games.

Ultimately though, whether this sells in big numbers or not is maybe immaterial. This sort of crazy inventive idea serves to further Nintendo reputation for innovation, creativity and fun and will be yet another reason to get a Switch.

David Ranki (Ad Legend)

Utterly bonkers, yet utterly brilliant, the Labo might just be the most Nintendo idea ever.

With 10 million Switch owners around the world, the install base is there for Labo's launch to be a solid success, but I see the initial pair of kits mainly as a proof of concept. If these sell well, the sky is the limit for other companies to be begging Nintendo to team up: we could see a range of robots for kids to team up as their favourite Marvel characters, lightsaber and blaster models for a new Star Wars game, and countless other tie-ins (and there’s the potential for community-led designs).

The potential of Labo is staggering. But I just want a R.O.B buddy!

Alex Calvin (PC Commandant)

Given who Nintendo has been since the '70s, it's easy to forget that – historically at least – the Japanese giant is actually more of a toy company than a video game one.

That's not a subtle dig at the titles it puts out, either. Founded in 1889, the firm stated out as a card game outfit, before trying its hand at a variety of of different toy ventures. The company even tried to launch its own version of LEGO, the N&B Block, during the late 1960s.

All of this is to say that Nintendo Labo isn't as much of a surprising move as it would first appear. This is always the company that Nintendo has been under the hood.

Whether this new venture will be a hit, however, is another matter altogether. What we saw from that flashy trailer yesterday paints a fun picture, and one that certainly turns heads, but when you consider the market and costs involved it becomes unclear whether this will take off.

For one, these products come with a substantial price tag. Sure, you are getting software as well as some cardboard toys, but $69.99 for a Variety Kit and $79.99 for the Robot Kit is, well, a bit steep for many people.

On the surface, Labo seems like a way of Nintendo broadening the Switch's appeal out to kids. So far, the hardware has likely mostly been bought by core gamers, or at least people who grew up with consoles. Will the kids of today, who have been raised on mobile and tablet games, and the likes of Minecraft and Roblox go for this line of "analog" and "old school" entertainment?

Going back to LEGO, arguably one of Labo's closest relatives: sales of the Danish bricks have been dipping, with the firm seeing its first decrease in revenue and profit in 13 years in 2017. This is in part due to competition from video game companies. So this is far from a perfect comparison, but it does paint a picture of a generation who aren't much interested in this form of entertainment.

The real test of Labo will be in the quality of the products and how they are marketed. If nothing else, Nintendo has certainly learnt how to promote it wares in recent years. Just compare the Wii U reveal with that of the Switch, it's night and day. So there's no doubt the firm will make this a tantalising proposition. It just needs to be one that justifies the pretty considerable financial expense.

What do YOU think of the Nintendo Labo announcement? Will you be queuing up to get one? Give our experts a piece of your mind in the comments thread below.